By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Fort Hood is showing Pfc. Kevin Nunn a lot of firsts: his first duty station, his first deployment, and on Thursday, his first time around a helicopter.
“This is way new to me,” he said.
Nunn’s unit, the 154th Transportation Company, is set to deploy later this year and 85 of its soldiers spent time last week learning how to call in a helicopter and load and unload injured soldiers onto it for evacuation.
The company is part of the 13th Sustainment Command’s 180th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, and most of the soldiers are “88 Mikes” or truck drivers. The company was activated more than a year ago at Fort Hood and serves as a container movement support company for III Corps and separate units on post, said Capt. Corinne McClellan, the company’s commander.
The soldiers are set to do the same mission for other units in Iraq.
The company’s executive officer, 2nd Lt. Rob Smith, coordinated the training on Thursday with the 1st Cavalry Division’s Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
Smith is a former line medic who left the enlisted ranks and was later commissioned as an officer.
Training like this is important for any unit that ever steps outside the wire, he said. These soldiers don’t often get this kind of training and it is good they get to do it at Fort Hood. That way they won’t be shocked if they must carry out those tasks in Iraq.
Nunn typically does training that is specific to his job, he said, and it was good to get out and do something new.
“This is fun,” he said. “Especially with helicopters.”
Spc. Scott Hannivig knows first-hand the importance of medevac training. He deployed in 2006 with a reserve unit from Fort Carson, Colo. Two fellow soldiers were injured and he helped load them into a helicopter so they could be evacuated quickly and safely. Hannivig was injured, too, and received a Purple Heart.
Hannivig did exactly the tasks during the actual medevac that he and the rest of the company practiced on Thursday. The training is “very serious” and is a 10 on the scale of importance because this is worst-case scenario stuff, he said.
The soldiers learn basic skills for every situation, from convoy safety to reacting to roadside bombs to combat lifesaving.
“If those fail, this is what comes in and if you don’t know this ...” Hannivig said, referring to the medevac training.
The experience also helps the company’s soldiers get a little extra appreciation for the medical side of the Army and their combat lifesaver training, Smith said. He served as a medic in infantry and armor units and said it was never guaranteed that it was just the medics who administered aid.
Flight crews from the 1st Air Cavalry were on hand to instruct the transportation soldiers on everything from preparing a landing zone to strapping a patient to a litter to unloading them on and off the helicopter.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Orange, a flight medic, said the most common mistakes are providing the wrong location and giving the wrong number of patients when calling for a medevac.
He would rather soldiers overestimate the number of wounded waiting for care than underestimate, he said.
The instructors watched the soldiers practice loading and unloading “wounded” comrades on the Black Hawks as they sat on a landing pad Thursday just behind brigade headquarters at Fort Hood.
Crews then fired up the aircraft and soldiers had to do the same thing as wind beat down on their backs, making it even more challenging to load their buddies.
“Yeah, that was nice,” Nunn said with a smile after the second phase of the day’s training.
The adrenaline rush made it a lot different, he said, and it felt more “real time.”
Spending the day training with helicopters made Thursday “a lot better than most other days,” Nunn said, still Sunable to hide a smile.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.
Staff Sgt. Rob Strain of 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs contributed to this report.