20 November 2009

Expecting the unexpected

Oregon National Guard Sgt. Zach Holden, Portland, Ore., a Task Force 38 crew chief with Company C, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment loads a box of blood during a contingency aeromedical staging facility flight Thursday, Nov. 12. The CASF flight moved up due to an earlier medevac flight to deliver blood. The Oregon Guard company conducted CASF flights and medevac flights in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry.

In Balad with Task Force 38's medevac unit, Company C, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. Typically, the unit flies routine missions pick up patients, medical supplies, doctors and nurses from outlying bases and bring them to Balad. The patients come to Balad for a higher level of care - surgery or evaluation such as an MRI. Some are staged there for transport to an even higher echelon of care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The crews must be prepared at all times to switch between the routine CASF missions and emergency MEDEVAC missions.

"Medevac, medevac, medevac," came across the hand-held radios, and a quiet barbecue dinner celebrating Veterans Day, a day late, with pork ribs, pork and beans, macaroni salad, and fellowship with other Soldiers, suddenly turned serious and bustling as crewmembers ran toward the flight line.

"Can you take care of this?" Casha asked one of his fellow Soldiers as he motioned to his plate of half eaten food.

No longer were the crews leisurely readying themselves for a CASF flight, now it was time to go, even if dinner wasn't finished.

"The real difference between the two [missions] is one [CASF] we have time to plan, and with the other, medevac missions, we don't know where we're going to go," said Zeiner.

Yet within minutes the pilots were in the cockpits, knew where they were they going and knew their mission - to deliver blood to another base. The medevac Soldiers learned where they were going, and they also learned to prepare for the spontaneity of their mission.

"You have to keep yourself physically and mentally ready all the time," Zeiner said.

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