CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (Oct. 27, 2022) – For many Soldiers, a long journey is ahead from the moment they enlist to when they actually get to do the job for which they signed up for. The Soldiers of the MedEvac detachment assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, Arizona National Guard, also known as “Copper State Dustoff,” had a three-year-long journey leading up to their arrival in Kosovo. Just eight days after arriving, they received their first-ever MedEvac mission as a unit.
At approximately 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2022, Kosovo Force’s Regional Command-East received a warning of a possible MedEvac mission brewing at their northernmost base, Camp Nothing Hill. The initial information received stated a Soldier at the installation required evacuation to a higher level of care as soon as possible.
After the initial call came down, the crew on duty, consisting of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Anderson, the pilot-in-command, Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Carey, the second pilot-in-command, Sgt. Jacob Anderson and Sgt. Jon Atcitty, both inflight paramedics, started preparations for the mission.
“I think that being able to give the service members that are elsewhere throughout the country some peace of mind by them knowing that we're only 20 minutes away is a huge boost to their confidence when doing their missions,” said Robert.
When the team arrived at Camp Nothing Hill, they immediately identified the severity of the situation and knew the Soldier needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible. Jacob made the decision to take that Soldier to Spitali Amerikan Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo. The trip from Camp Nothing Hill to Spitali was approximately 20 minutes. If the medic at Camp Nothing Hill had decided to drive the patient, it would have taken more than an hour and a half to reach the facility.
“It was excellent to see all the pieces coming together and getting a lot of help from the medic on the ground,'' said Jacob. “We've done it in training scenarios over and over, but it was pretty fulfilling to come together as a group and actually pull off the mission and take care of somebody.”
For the paramedics, training extends for more than two years and adds several different courses onto the already challenging Army combat medic course. For the pilots, their school traditionally takes two years to complete, with countless hours of add-on training once assigned to a unit. For Carey, he had to be retrained on the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk due to him previously flying Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.
“It's about a two-year pipeline because you have to go to paramedic school, critical care school, flight school, and then come home and go through progression training,” Jacob said. “It's a little over two years to be fully mission capable as a flight paramedic. It's a lot of work and you have to be passionate about it and love it, but getting able to actually get in the aircraft and do it was pretty fulfilling.”
Overall, the mission’s success was made possible due to the crew of the aircraft and the countless other Soldiers assigned to Copper State Dustoff, all the way down to the maintenance crew and the fuelers. One of KFOR's defining missions in Kosovo is to maintain a safe and secure environment, and for the troops working in the region, it is important to have medical assets eagerly ready to keep them safe as well.
“It was super helpful (for) me to have somebody that did such a good initial job on the ground and then being able to call us for transportation really shows how working together like that is paramount to getting troops taken care of,” said Jacob.