CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Arizona National Guard Soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, had a three-year journey leading up to their deployment to Kosovo. Just eight days after that arrival, they received their first medevac mission as a unit.
At approximately 10:15 p.m. Oct. 15, Kosovo Force’s Regional Command-East received a warning of a possible medevac mission brewing at their northernmost base, Camp Nothing Hill. A Soldier at the installation required evacuation for a higher level of care as soon as possible.
The crew on duty, 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, began preparing 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 Anderson.
When the team arrived at Camp Nothing Hill, they assessed the situation and knew the Soldier needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible. Jacob decided to take the Soldier to Spitali Amerikan Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo, a 20-minute trip. 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 courses to the already challenging Army combat medic course. Pilots’ school typically takes two years to complete, with countless hours of add-on training once assigned to a unit. Carey had flown Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters, so had to be trained on the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.
"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.”
The mission’s success was due to the crew of the aircraft and countless other Soldiers, all the way down to the maintenance crew and fuelers.
One of KFOR’s defining missions in Kosovo is to maintain a safe and secure environment. For the troops working in the region, it is important to have medical assets available to keep them safe.
“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.