Lone Star DUSTOFF: Doing the mission not just for combat anymore
FORT BLISS — Soldiers assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, “Lone Star DUSTOFF,” get to do something at home that most combat medevac units only get to do abroad: their mission.
Lately, the company has been performing real-world medevac patient evacuations in the Fort Bliss area. Though they do not face armed insurgents, their enemy is still a formidable one – time.
The DUSTOFF mission, at home or deployed, is a no-fail race against the clock. With its fleet of UH-60L and HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, dedicated maintenance and support personnel, skilled flight crews and supportive Army families, “no-fail” is how Lone Star DUSTOFF has performed time and again.
Perhaps the most visible event that Lone Star DUSTOFF supports is the annual Bataan Memorial Death March. March 23rd marked the 25th anniversary of the march at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The march, which memorializes the World War II Bataan Death March in the Philippines, is an annual event that draws thousands of participants from around the U.S. and the world. Marchers run, ruck and hike through 26.2 miles of treacherous terrain in often hot, dry conditions to pay their respects to those who marched – and the many that died.
This year more than 6,000 participants flooded White Sands for the event, and Lone Star DUSTOFF was there to provide immediate medevac support. Despite an array of mild injuries that included blisters, sprains and injured pride, the only time the Black Hawks turned their blades was while performing pre-flight checks to ensure the crews and aircraft would be ready as soon as the first marchers crossed the start line.
More akin to their deployed tactical mission, the unit also provided medevac support to Army and Marine ground units during the Brigade Modernization Command’s (BMC) Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 14.2 during the month of May. Lone Star DUSTOFF Soldiers as well as Soldiers with 2nd Bn., 501st Aviation Regiment, CAB, 1st AD, “Iron Knights,” converged on a small, dirt landing strip near Oro Grande, New Mexico, known as “Wilde Benton.”
Located in the open desert of the Fort Bliss Reservation training area, this area is as remote as it gets, and served as the perfect location for Task Force Iron Knights to assemble their tent city and set up realistic wartime operations.
Battling relentless winds and demoralizing dust storms, Lone Star DUSTOFF again stood ready to launch their Black Hawks to provide top-notch medical care and patient evacuation.
In addition to the real world medevac mission, NIE 14.2 also allowed DUSTOFF crews to provide realistic medevac training for the ground units participating in the field exercise. Realistic medevac training is a valuable tool for not only ground forces calling for patient evacuation, but also for the DUSTOFF crews to hone their skills when duty calls and life is on the line. Both the training missions as well as the real-world medevac missions supported by Lone Star DUSTOFF afforded the opportunity for the unit to act as Fort Bliss’ ambassadors to the medical community in the El Paso and Las Cruces areas.
Due to geographical constraints and patient treatment requirements, Fort Bliss’ William Beaumont Army Center is not always the primary destination for evacuated patient treatment. This means that the aircraft and aircrews of Lone Star DUSTOFF often deliver patients to a variety of hospitals in the local area, affording Co. C, an opportunity to interact with area medical providers and establish joint treatment protocols, operating procedures and contingency plans to ensure evacuated patients receive timely and effective care. DUSTOFF crews were also able to interact with their civilian counterparts from the Air Methods Company at the Bataan Death March, swapping aviation stories and learning about each other’s mission.
Soldiers with Lone Star DUSTOFF take pride in their “no-fail” mission and find great meaning in performing it, whether in peace or war, or for civilians or Soldiers. Their recent missions have sharpened their skills while they actively engage in and help the community. As their motto declares, more than ever, it is clear that Lone Star DUSTOFF will rest only, “When I have your wounded.”