TAMPA, FL -- Although one Yellow Ribbon event for deploying and redeploying Soldiers may look pretty much like any other, the one thing that changes is the unit. In this case the unit is F Company, 5/159th Aviation Regiment, a Medical Evacuation unit out of Clearwater, FL.
F Co. is unique in that they are the only MEDEVAC unit in the Army Reserve and the first since the Gulf War in 1991. During that conflict the USAR had the 348th Medical Detachment in Orlando which disbanded after the war. One of the members of the 348th was the future 1st Sgt of F Co. 1SG Oscar Gomez, who will be going on his fourth deployment, has plenty of trust in his troops. "We have great Soldiers," Gomez said. "For us failure is not an option." The F Co commander, Maj. Derrick Davis echoed the 1SGs' remarks. "We've got outstanding platoon Sgts and platoon leaders," he said.
The senior leaders of the unit have to have a high level of confidence in their crews since they will be broken up into five groups and stationed at five different locations throughout Afghanistan. "The C2 (command and control) aspect is much more complicated," Davis said. "So we empower them to be autonomous," Each platoon leader runs the platoon with advice, if requested, from the commander or 1SG.
This Yellow Ribbon, like any other, gives Soldiers and families critical information they will need during the upcoming deployment. In between each briefing session, Soldiers and families had a break in order to visit each briefers' table if they needed more specific information on a particular topic and each representative is dedicated to providing the best service to the troops.
Likewise, F Co is looking forward to providing the best possible service to the troops in Afghanistan. From the time a call comes in to the Tactical Operations Center, the crew on duty, consisting of a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and a flight medic, has one hour to get the patient from the battlefield to the nearest medical facility. 1SG Gomez occasionally goes along as a crew chief and maintains his flight status. "I have to be able to do anything I ask my soldiers to do," he said. Gomez insists on keeping his own skills and knowledge current. "If we fail," he explained, "we will show the world that the Army Reserve is not ready for a MEDEVAC [unit]." It is clear that no member of F Co even considers failure as a possibility. "We are looking forward to bringing everyone back in one piece," said Gomez. "We have a great unit."
Also present at the event was former USARC Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Caffie, now an Army Reserve Ambassador representing Florida. Caffie sat at a lunch table and spoke with Soldiers and family members of the unit. "Our Soldiers are the best trained, best equipped Soldiers in the world," he told the family of one of the Blackhawk pilots as if to reassure them their son was in best organization for his skill set. He also emphasized the importance of the Yellow Ribbon events that are a part of the entire mobilization process.