From 3 March 2011 to 24 December 2011, F Company, 1st Battalion,126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), a newly formed unit which deployed only 12 months after its conversion from a legacy UH-1 medical evacuation detachment, provided extremely effective and continuous MEDEVAC coverage in the complex and harsh terrain of western Afghanistan.
On 3 March 2011, F Company deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 2011-12. Training collectively for the first time at the mobilization station, the company deployed with 113 soldiers, including 13 from National Guard Bureau and volunteers from 16 separate units. They assumed responsibility for 12 UH-60 MEDEVAC aircraft and organized with a company headquarters and four Forward Support Medical Evacuation Teams (FSMTs).
Over the next nine months F company flew more than 2300 combat hours over the most unforgiving terrain in the world, performing medical evacuations, critical patient transfers, blood transfers, and medical resupply. They operated 24 hours each day under extreme weather conditions including high winds, blowing sand, brownout visibility, and low light conditions. The unit never missed a mission and never failed to provide the support needed by the ground force commanders.
The unit’s maintenance record was as impressive as its flying record, especially given the weather and terrain conditions. Technicians expended more than 33,650 maintenance man-hours to maintain the aircraft. The result of these efforts was the highest average monthly readiness rate in the Task Force.
Of the 700 patients transported, more than half were local civilians and more than 200 were members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and
Afghan National Police (ANP) Forces. The company’s efforts had a direct and positive impact on the local populace—a very important element
of the mission of the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan.
On 30 May 2011, the unit responded to a deadly attack on the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) compound in the crowded and complex urban environment of Herat City. lnsurgents had launched an attack which included suicide bombers, car bombs and small dismounted teams. Italian soldiers were engaged in a fire fight when the MEDEVAC team arrived. The pilots flew through insurgent small arms fire and smoke from burning vehicles to land in a hazardous and extremely confined urban environment. Despite being exposed to an enemy position 50 meters away, the team directed the loading of patients while actively engaging enemy forces with M4 carbine fire. The aircrews evacuated the Italian casualties in multiple lifts to the Herat Role medical treatment facility. The team returned hours later for additional patients. During this fire fight, the crews of the Dustoff aircraft evacuated some 19 Italian casualties.
This was the first deployment for some of the soldiers, while many others deployed in support of the stateside security mission of Operation Noble Eagle in 2003 and/or to Iraq in 2005 as part of the Global War on Terror. In Operation Noble Eagle the unit fulfilled a support mission for active duty Army bases in the southeastern US. F Company, then the 249th Medical Company (Air Ambulance), flying UH-1 Hueys, provided support for the active duty forces so units equipped with the UH- 60s could go forward in support of the war effort.