Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eight Minutes and Gone--Revised

I rewrote this post from September 16 for the newsletter I write. I was very happy with the result, so for those who didn't see it in the newsletter, I thought I would post it in its new form. Go to Sept 16 for the pictures.

Capt. Peter Huggins, executive officer of Charlie 1-52nd MEDEVAC, was
very careful to say that the Army response time standard for a MEDEVAC
call is fifteen minutes. That is fifteen minutes from the time the
9-line MEDEVAC request is received until the mission is in the air.
But in the day room, the hangar, the ready rooms and at the picnic
tables, flight medics, pilots, crew chiefs and chase-crew door gunners
all know the real goal is eight minutes. One day recently, I was at
Charlie MEDEVAC waiting to talk to a medic when the 9-line came in. The
sky was clear and temperature was just over 120 degrees. When I heard
the call on radios all around the area, I looked at my watch, marked the
time, and went straight out to where the Blackhawks sit enclosed by
blast walls waiting to take off. The crew chiefs and right-seat pilots
of both aircraft were already getting their Blackhawks ready for flight.
The flight medic and both left-seat pilots were in the TOC (Tactical
Operations Center) getting a mission brief.
Within three minutes the twin turbine engines were screaming and the
huge rotor blades were starting to turn. I walked along the blast walls
to the front of the aircraft so I could watch the takeoff from directly
under their flight path.
The main rotors turned faster and faster. I moved to a dead air spot
between the shuddering Blackhawks where I was not being buffeted by the
wind from the main rotors. The pilots and the flight medic jumped into
their seats. The tail rotors were spinning crazy fast looking like they
might pick the whole aircraft up from the back. The roaring sound from
the rotors suddenly dropped to a lower pitch.
In that moment of quiet, the medic bird took off. At first slowly
upward, then twisting to the right it banked up into the air,
straightened out and shot into the distance.
The chase bird was seconds behind following the same counterclockwise
curve into the sky. Eighteen seconds short of eight minutes--and gone.

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In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...