By Spc. Karin Leach
(1/19/10) -- It was already night when the Black Hawk crew finished their day, sending loose desert sand off into the air as they gently landed on the gravel. The Company C, 3/238th Aviation (Medevac) of the New Hampshire National Guard is deployed between Tallil, Al Kut, and Contingency Operating Base Garry Owen in Iraq. The group functions as an air ambulance unit, responding to medical evacuation calls needing a helicopter to get patients to a medical facility quickly.
Though the unit arrived in Iraq early November they already feel the need for their presence. "We are needed here, last month we helped three Iraqis in a car accident," said Spc. Aaron DeAngelis, a crew chief with the unit. "They would have died if we weren't here. There's no air ambulance in Iraq, it's just us."
The medevac team is stationed on three different areas of Iraq, and is a joint unit combining Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard and the New Hampshire National Guard.
"It's been a lot of fun getting to know a lot of these guys, I wish I could take some of them home with me," said Spc. Andy Weis, a crew chief with the Michigan Guard.
Though many in the aviation unit haven't been deployed before, this is Capt. Jay Richards' second tour to Iraq as a pilot.
"My first tour to Iraq was busier than this one, more [improvised explosive device] wounds and gunshot wounds," said Richards, team leader with New Hampshire. "As the nation's gotten more stable the injuries are less severe and more routine. With the draw down we're doing less so there aren't as many casualties. On top of that the Iraqis are doing more to advance the security, making it safer overall."
With four kids back at home, Sgt. Steve Couture of the New Hampshire Guard misses his family, but is happy to be helping.
"This mission's great, I'm here to get people help," said Couture, a flight operations non-commissioned officer. "It's good when you can sit back and know that you did your job and helped. I'm thankful when there's nothing to do though; it means nobody is getting hurt. I do miss my family though. I can't wait to have my Dunkin Doughnuts date with my wife, wrestle with the kids and go driving with my oldest daughter; I'm really looking forward to seeing my family."
Whether the sun is setting or rising the medevac company is always prepared to help anyone asking for assistance.
"In my heart of hearts I know we are providing a necessary service," said Warrant Officer Emily Leclair, Contoocook, one of the unit's pilots. "Even if we were here the whole year and only one person was injured, and we took them to the hospital to help them to get stable, that's worth it to me."