By Staff Sgt. Kenneth A. Foss, 1st Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOICJanuary 12, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Medics from 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team called in a simulated medical evacuation request Jan. 9 as part of Fort Drum's initial training event to expand the installation's capabilities as a fully functional unit by using 10th Combat Aviation Brigade's ability to provide medevac support.
Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, wants to expand the division's capability by using its own Black Hawk helicopters for medical evacuations, rather than rely on civilian aircraft.
"What the (commanding general) wishes to exercise now is an internal capability out of our combat aviation brigade to medevac a Soldier who is injured during training," said Capt. Scott Elwell, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment.
In the recent past, Fort Drum has primarily relied on civilian aircraft out of Syracuse for most medical evacuations.
Using military aircraft already on post reduces the overall amount of time it takes for a Soldier to reach a hospital, resulting in the possible saving of life or limb.
"Today, we are conducting an exercise in which we are going to flex the capability of 10th Mountain to utilize the combat aviation brigade in support of medevac operations," Elwell said.
"First and foremost, this is what these folks do in combat," said Brig. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, division deputy commanding general for support. "This is what they do when they're deployed. So if we are going to have them ready to deploy at a moment's notice, in whatever they have to respond to for the nation, then we need to practice it, rehearse it and keep them highly trained."
"During training here at Fort Drum, year round, if a Soldier is injured during training, we need the capability, internally within the Army system, to medevac a Soldier to get treatment," Elwell said. "This capability is paramount; it is one of the most important capabilities on the battlefield."
This event provided a full-spectrum medevac operation, not just for the aviators, but for medics on the ground as well. Soldiers, old and new, benefited from the exercise.
"I feel it's an outstanding exercise for our medics," said 1st Sgt. William Van Orman, first sergeant for HHB, 3-6 FA. "Most of them have combat experience doing this, but I have a lot of new guys right out of AIT (advanced individual training), so this has been really good for them."
Medics just out of AIT received the valuable experience of performing tasks in a training environment identical to that found in actual combat operations.
"Part of the commanding general's perspective on this is that we train as we fight, so we are literally performing this operation as we would in Afghanistan," said Maj. Michael McFadden, commander of C Company, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"The tasks that the Soldiers are performing and the standards that they have to perform them are exactly the same. The only thing that's different is the conditions in which they are doing it," Dahl said. "A medevac response to a training event is the same as medevac response to a combat event in Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever we're deployed."
Some Soldiers weren't so new to this type of environment, and they were able to share that experience with those who have never deployed, while at the same time preserving and honing their skills even more.
"Today we were simulating an event that was pretty common to us in Afghanistan, which was responding and performing an emergency medical evacuation of wounded Soldiers," McFadden said.
"Just as we would in Afghanistan, we always have crews standing by for a hurt Soldier," he added. "We have to do this training; we have to rehearse it so the medevac units are capable of deploying and performing this mission in combat."
Scheduling these types of maneuvers during other high-risk events allows the exercise to be that much more effective and realistic, resulting in a more full spectrum and fully capable training environment.
"This requires a lot of staff work and a lot of leadership engagement so we can synchronize a high-risk training event for our maneuver forces on the ground with the medevac training; that's exactly what we intend on doing," Dahl said.
Senior leaders at Fort Drum wanted people in the tri-county area to understand why they may see helicopters flying more frequently and to understand the importance of the training.
"When you see helicopters flying, then you can understand that what we are doing is initiating some very, very important, critical training that prepares us for combat," Dahl said.
Fort Drum officials stress that 10th CAB is not authorized to fly medevac missions for purposes other than training requirements, and it is not the answer to the local medical transport deficiency.
Family and friends of Fort Drum Soldiers can rest assured that if something happens to their loved ones during training, they will be in good hands.
"When you call for the medevac, you know somebody is coming for you, and that's important," Elwell said.