Medevacs & Medics, Angels of Mercy
By Ed Marek, editor
March 17, 2012
"The miracle of Iraq is actually in Medevac"
Those were the words of Secretary of the Air Force, Michael W. Wynne, while testifying before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on March 29, 2006. David P. Gilkey, a Detroit Free Press photographer and USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya worked with the Air Force's 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and Army's 57th Medical Company, Air Ambulance (AA), to produce a video report on Iraq medical evacuation (medevac). This is a must see video. We have taken some clips to take you through a photo gallery of the process, from the moment a trooper is down to loading him up for the flight to Germany.
April 8, 2005
In an earlier section we talked a little about the history of our "Dustoff" medevac crews, their machines, and their bravery: “No compromise. No rationalization. No Hesitation. Fly the mission.
The Air Force's 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and Army's 57th Medical Company, Air Ambulance (AA), "The Original Dustoff," assisted David P. Gilkey, a Detroit Free Press photographer, USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya, and producer Stephen McGee, also a Detroit Free Press photographer, in preparing a six minute video, "Dustoff: Iraq medical evacuation", summarizing the sequence of events in the medevac business in present-day Iraq. We commend this video to your attention. For this editor, it brought a tear of enormous pride to the eye, shivers to the spine, and a lump in the throat. We also recommend you read a related article done by Gregg Zoroya for USA Today, entitled "Medics' work in Iraq could save civilians." It also has their photo gallery.
We've captured a few of the video clips to highlight and inspire you to see the full video; you need to see it and hear it to get the full effect. Twenty-three hundred plus Americans have died in the Iraq War, a great loss. Over 17,000 have been wounded, and most of these have been saved by the US military's medical teams.
The klaxon has sounded, a Dustoff crew dons its survival gear on the run to its helicopter. This crew is from the Army's 57th Medical Company.
The crews fire up their UH-60 "Blackhawks" and get them airborne and to the scene, about a five minute ride by air. A soldier has been hit in the belly by an enemy sniper.
The Dustoff is on the scene, it has dropped off its medics, they are patching the wounded soldier, who is in great pain and bleeding badly. The Blackhawk stands nearby, engines running, and a group of his fellow soldiers has set up a security cordon around them, firing at any suspected enemy nearby while the medics work. The wounded soldier is Sgt. Robert Mundo, 24, 4th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion Combat Team.
Using some of the most sophisticated bandages made for this kind of wound that stops the bleeding almost on contact, the medics have patched their patient, moved him onto a stretcher, and must now run to the waiting Blackhawk Air Ambulance to get him to the hospital. Their security cordon remains their protection force.
This is one of the troops at the scene carrying the patient on the run to the helicopter. The look on his face says it all --- hurry up, we gotta get this guy loaded and to the hospital, mega-pronto.
The Blackhawk, within a matter of minutes, arrives at the US Air Force Hospital helipad, Balad Air Force Base (AFB), Iraq.
The Dustoff and hospital medics offload the patient. Note the crewman standing in front of the Blackhawk --- he keeps the skipper informed of the progress so there are no inadvertent accidents between medics and machine on the pad.
Safely in hospital care, Sgt. Major Daniel Daily, with the Army's 4th Infantry Division, reassures Mundo. Mundo has already been in the surgery room.
Sgt. Mundo has been repaired by doctors at Balad, he has received the Purple Heart from his fellow soldiers for his combat action, he has been stabilized, and now awaits transport home for further care. This all happened in one day, actually the same afternoon.
In the mean time, the war goes on and medical techs prepare a patient for surgery. This hospital is probably among the busiest American hospitals in the world, treating US and Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians caught in the cross-fire.
The doctors review the medical images.
The doctors go to work. The patients are "put back together again as fast as possible."
The stresses on everyone involved are enormous, but they have to keep on going. After work, besides sleep, if they have time, physical exercise is what keeps most of them afloat. Some work out right in the emergency room during a lull.
The patients who are stabilized and ready to fly are carried to a bus and bused to the waiting "Freedom Bird," a USAF C-17 Globemaster, standing at the ready to fly them to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. "The goal is to set them up for the best possible outcome they can have." Here they get a thumbs up from the C-17 to start loading up.
The patients are offloaded from the bus...
...and uploaded on the waiting aircraft.
Each patient is placed on a cot...
...and hooked up to requisite equipment and/or IVs, or just made more comfortable and reassured that they are in good, caring, loyal hands.
The on-board medical crew begins monitoring the patients through an elaborate network of computers and monitoring devices. This is akin to an airborne emergency room, ready to handle whatever they have to handle.
The C-17 is configured to carry 48 litter patients and troop seats for 40 ambulatory patients along the walls. The crew can configure the aircraft according to the requirements of the manifest.
The busses and ambulances prepare to leave, the back of the aircraft will be closed, there will be an engine start and off she'll go to Germany, the Freedom Bird's crew responsible for their charges' health and welfare for the entire trip.
Wounded soldiers will spend about 48 to 72 hours at the Balad hospital, anywhere from a few days to two weeks at Landstuhl, and then back to a nedical facility in the US for further treatment. Their port of entry normally is Andrews AFB in Maryland, close to both Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval hospitals.
Testifying on March 29, 2006 before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff, General T. Michael Moseley, said that the C-17 was “worth its weight in gold.”
Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said this:
"The miracle of Iraq is actually in Medevac. And the fact that we can get people from the frontlines into Balad and into Landstuhl and then back to Walter Reed in very short order and that is saving lives in a dramatic way. The C-17 is the workhorse of this engagement without a doubt."
The history of the Army's Dustoffs are incredibly inspirational. MSgt. Stan Hutchson, a Vietnam vet, wrote a poem entitled, simply, "Dustoff," and it opens like this:
"They come in fast and furious. Sliding in over the top of a tree. A better sight on all this earth. Believe me, you’ll never see."
Fire up America. This is what we are all about.
Our wounded will not walk their journey alone!