Cajun Dustoff: Flying to save lives in Louisiana’s skies

By Antoine AaronApril 24, 2024

Cajun Dustoff: Flying to save lives in Louisiana’s skies
1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment, Charlie Company, MedEvac Team prepares to take off from Maks Army Airfield April 18 to respond to an emergency call. (U.S. Army photo by Antoine Aaron) (Photo Credit: Antoine Aaron) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT JOHNSON, La. — Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment, also known as Cajun Dustoff, is stationed at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson. The company is a viable resource for those in need of urgent MedEvac evacuation in Louisiana.

Led by Maj. Nick Schaefer, the Cajun Dustoff operates as the state’s sole active-duty MedEvac unit, providing round-the-clock assistance every day.

Schaefer highlighted the unit’s commitment to its mission.

“We are a real-world MedEvac unit dedicated to saving lives,” Schaefer said.

But their primary mission is supporting training rotations in the box.

“We have several local and rotational units training at JRTC. If anyone has any injuries, we’re here to support them for real world emergencies,” Staff Sgt. Lansing Zaragoza, critical care flight medic, said.

Since October, Cajun Dustoff has executed nine point of entry missions and five patient transfers, showcasing their unwavering dedication to their mission.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Steven Simmons, the company’s first sergeant, they fly UH-60 Blackhawks with a crew consisting of two pilots, a repair/crew chief and a critical care flight paramedic.

“We support the warfighter at JRTC and Fort Johnson, as well as the surrounding communities,” Simmons said.

Schaefer said from extensive training to seamless coordination during missions, Cajun Dustoff exemplifies professionalism and selflessness.

“The best pilots are the ones that are always seeking knowledge and learning new skills,” Schaefer said, underscoring the unit’s commitment to excellence.

A lot of credit goes to the unit’s flight operations team.

“Flight Ops does a lot of stuff in the background. The mission starts and ends with them. They’re very important to the success of our unit,” he said.

For the Cajun Dustoff team, he said the greatest reward lies in serving alongside remarkable individuals united by a common purpose.

“It’s an awesome thing to see selfless people working together as a team and doing something that’s a worthy cause,” Schaefer said. “The people that come to this unit know what they’re getting into beforehand. They want to be here. The thing about Cajun Dustoff is we love doing our job. Pilots love to fly and medics love to treat their patients,” he said.

Simmons encapsulated the spirit of camaraderie that defines their operations.

“Cajun Dustoff’s commitment to excellence and selfless dedication to their mission makes them true heroes,” Simmons said.