Army Reserve Unveils Aircraft
Photos/text by Renee Burrell
The HH-60 Blackhawk is the principle MEDEVAC helicopter. The Army has added additional MEDEVAC/Air Ambulances to its inventory to lessen the strain on current personnel and equipment during the Global War on Terrorism
CLEARWATER - This year the Army Reserve and the Army Reserve Medical Corps celebrate 100 years. Reservists had an additional reason to celebrate recently as the Air Ambulance Company stationed in Clearwater will activate September 16th as the first Air Ambulance Company to return to the United States Army Reserve since 1992.
That year the Chief of the Army Reserve agreed with the Chief of the National Guard to divest itself of all Combat Arms units, which included much of the Army's Aviation and all MEDEVAC companies and detachments. The move was made to balance the force between combat, combat support and combat service support, dividing all between the Guard and Army Reserve.
Army MEDEVAC, or Air Ambulance, missions are the highest level of command interest. Their mission is the timely and efficient movement and en route care of the wounded being evacuated from the battlefield to receiving hospitals. Most casualties reach definitive medical care within 60 minutes.
MEDEVAC has a continued 92 percent survivability rate.
Flying ambulances began with the establishment of the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1928 to bring doctors and patients together speedily from the remote outback. The emergence of helicopters helped the U.S. Army to employ air ambulances in Burma during World War II when semi-permanent field hospitals were set up short distances behind front lines, allowing for wounded soldiers to receive complete medical treatment after only a brief helicopter flight.
The return of the MEDEVAC mission to the Army Reserve was celebrated with a Roll-out Ceremony held in the Hangar Bay of the Aviation Support Facility at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
Families, friends and dignitaries joined Army Reserve Officers, our nation's "Warrior Citizens" in paying homage to the Medical Corps for their vital role in supporting enlisted soldiers.
The Master of Ceremony was Major James H. Fitzgerald III. An invocation was given by Chaplain (LTC) Paul Linzey. Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz and Congressman C.W. (Bill) Young were the keynote speakers.
Also in attendance were retired Army MEDEVAC Reservists, including some of the members of Orlando's 348th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance).
Major Frank Futch who commanded the unit from Oct. 1979 - Oct 1984 said, "Each of us served in the 348th for over 11 years. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Congressman Bill Young and LTG Jack Stultz for their tireless efforts to bring this unit to Florida. We have waited a long time for someone to recognize the importance to our military, state, and community for this type of unit. We feel this is a much needed resource, both for the Army and for the State of Florida. The mission of these units is critical for the uniformed services as well as the civilian community. WE SAVE LIVES - military and civilian!!! An added benefit to Florida is the number of added jobs and the economic boost that brings."
Of the 348th members at the ceremony Futch said, "These and others brought the 348th from near disbandment in 1979 to the most decorated medical unit in Desert Storm and the most proficient and combat ready unit in the old 81st ARCOM. The unit had the distinction of having no aviation related accidents in its history (This is an amazing statistic for a unit that saw so much service.) Our unit evacuated many casualties at our annual training sites - many who lived only because of the timely, professional treatment and transport to medical facilities. We also assisted the civilian community in aiding victims of Hurricane Andrew and other missions in the Orlando area."
The present company stationed in Clearwater has been assigned to 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment headquartered at Ft. Eustis, VA.
Members of the Air Ambulance Company stationed in Clearwater enjoyed meeting Congressman C.W. (Bill) Young
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