Today I went to a meeting at the Med-Evac building. The meeting was very routine, just a discussion of how to get soldiers' photos from across the battalion on a single computer. Just after the meeting I was talking to one of the pilots on duty. There are two aircraft that are on standby for immediate take-off and another pair of Blackhawks as a backup for the first. The lead bird in each pair is the medic bird. The trail bird is in air assault configuration with guns in the doors.
When they get a call, team one goes and team two goes on alert. Yesterday there were two calls almost simultaneously. I got to watch the preparation and take-off. The first pair were gone inside of eight minutes--jumping from the pad where they rest into the air one right after the other.
But there were only three Blackhawks on the ready line, not four. It turns out the fourth was on an instrument check flight--guns mounted and ready to go. I watched as the crew chief and pilots made final checks and started up the lone medic bird on the ground. Just as the rotor blades started spinning quickly, the chase bird came into view in the southern sky. It wheeled above the airstrip and landed after a rapid descent, but never stopped moving. As soon is it touched down 300 meters away from the medic bird, it slowly taxied, making the angry noises helicopters make when they are on the ground with the engines pushing those big rotors.
In a few seconds the Medic bird took off. The chase Blackhawk jumped from the concrete taxi five seconds later. It was beautiful to watch. And good for the soldiers at the other end of the trip. Because the calls were clearly very serious.