By Spc. Monica K. Smith, 3rd Combat Aviation Bde.September 10, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade wrote a new chapter in the Marne Division history book when its Medical Evacuation Company deployed to Afghanistan, Sept. 3, from Hunter Army Airfield.
Whereas the majority of the division will be returning to Iraq, the aviation brigade will join the surge into Afghanistan, representing the 3rd Infantry Division on a new battlefield.
If the aviation brigade represents a new chapter for the division, Company C, MEDEVAC, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment will be the first words of that chapter.
"The 3rd CAB is the Army's aviation surge force," said Col. Don Galli, commander of the 3rd CAB. "We deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V and VI and now the MEDEVAC Company is the leading edge of another surge. They will be the first formation standing from the 3rd ID in Afghanistan."
A little more than a year after returning from a 15-month tour in Iraq, the MEDEVAC Company has had to prepare to deploy with less time than the rest of the brigade.
"We have a lot of younger Soldiers who haven't deployed, but no one is better equipped to pull off this mission than the Soldiers we have," said Sgt. Matthew Gomes, C Co., 2/3 Avn. "(The leadership) did everything they could to make sure we're ready to go. With the high altitude training in Colorado and Falcon Focus at Fort Bliss they were 100 percent focused with making sure we were ready to go a month ahead of everyone. They made sure we had everything we needed to make us ready by putting us at the forefront."
The training allowed the MEDEVAC Soldiers opportunities to prepare for the unique challenges they will face during the deployment.
"There are challenges in Afghanistan that aren't present in Iraq," said 1st Sgt. Todd Burke, C Co., 2/3 Avn. "We had to practice a lot of hoist missions because in some places that is the only way to get people out, and the last time this company did repeated hoist missions was after (Hurricane) Katrina. So the pilots conducted a lot of hovering and the medics went up and down and up and down on the rope. The altitude also presents a challenge, and we had to reconfigure the aircraft. The training exercise at (Fort Bliss, Texas) helped a lot. We tried out a lot of configurations to find out what worked and what didn't work ahead of time."
The Soldiers in the MEDEVAC Company have conducted many courses in preparation for deployment. Some of the courses include the emergency medical technician intermediate course, high altitude training, a course on the command post of the future, and flight record training - all in addition to working on and maintaining their MEDEVAC Black Hawks.
"We'll be working right up until we get on the plane - literally," said 1st Sgt. Burke. "I think it's hardest for the Families not knowing when we're leaving, and then it comes so quickly. In the Army you never know what's going to be expected of you and early on we came up with the phrase: 'Hold on to the rope.' As a Soldier you have to do what you need to do, and it's an attitude adjustment. Everyone here realizes what they need to do, and it's been a great working environment. It's a privilege to be in this unit; really, it is."
As the Soldiers finish packing their equipment and belongings, Sgt. Gomes says many emotions are associated with going on what will be his second deployment.
"I'm feeling every emotion you can think of, bottled up in one," said Sgt. Gomes. "Anxious, excited, fearful - we're going somewhere we've never been before, doing different missions we haven't don't before, but we're ready."
Once the MEDEVAC Company arrives in Afghanistan, they will immediately fall under the command of the 82nd Airborne Division.
"We are normally not the first to deploy and it's sort of an honor to represent the 3rd CAB," said 1st Sgt. Burke. "You don't want to let the team down. We're the first (Marne Division Soldiers) they will see. I'm sure they've heard about us, but we still want to put our best foot forward."