Thursday, September 29, 2016

MEDEVAC Story from Iraq I Never Posted: Brett Feddersen, Pilot

Today I was looking for another story and realized I never posted a story I wrote in Iraq about my direct supervisor and MEDEVAC pilot, Brett Feddersen.  At the time he was an intelligence officer, so I said I would wait till we got back to the states to post it.  That should have been January 2010.  So 6-1/2 years later, here is the story I wrote.

            Major Brett Feddersen sits alone in the ready room next to the Medevac hangar at 11pm hunched over his personal computer editing a document for a meeting the next day.  “I’ve got to get some sleep in case we get a 2am call,” he says mostly to the air.  The rest of his crew is asleep or resting, waiting for the call.
            Feddersen is a senior staff officer with 2-104th General Services Aviation Battalion, but two to four days every week he is a Medevac pilot on a 48-hour rotation with Alaska-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 52nd Aviation, an active Army unit attached to 2-104th for the current deployment.  His shift will be over at 9am the following morning, but he had a long flight in the afternoon and a long day of meetings either side of the flight.  “I have to stay balanced, I have to stay rested, I have to complete the mission,” he said. 
            It’s a challenge he faces both in civilian life and on deployment.  Senior Trooper Feddersen has served with the Pennsylvania State Police since 1995, most recently flying Aviation Patrol Unit One in the southeastern area of the Commonwealth.  Adding Medevac pilot to his staff duties makes life hectic, but Feddersen lives to fly.  He arranges his life to complete the staff tasks to the best of his ability, making the time necessary to fly Medevac Blackhawks every week.  He is serious and professional when discussing staff duties, but is all smiles and broad hand and arm gestures describing a favorite Medevac mission.  Even crawling on top of the Blackhawk underneath the rotors for pre-flight checks before starting the engines, he is clearly enjoying himself whether under, at the controls, or on top of a Blackhawk helicopter.
            Feddersen said flying Medevac in Iraq has many similarities with flying for his civilian job.  “Flying for the state police is always on an emergency basis,” he said.  “The mission can be a lost child, lost hikers or hunters, or a bad guy pursuit.  We get the call.  We go.” 
            Medevac is the same.  On the first 24 hours of his 48 hours shift, Feddersen and his crew are “second up,” the backup team that goes if a call comes in and “first up” is already on a mission.  During the first day, the crew must be ready to take off within a half hour and can travel a short distance from the ready hangar.  On the second day the crew moves to “first up.”  The Army standard said they must to fly within fifteen minutes of receipt of the Medevac call.  In Charlie Company, the standard is eight minutes. 
            Whether at Ali Air Base or in Pennsylvania’s Twin Valley the emergency response mission gives Feddersen a real sense of accomplishment, “We make a difference here.  When a soldier is down we do everything we can to get them care and get them home.  At home we find the lost child, get the bad guy, it’s a great feeling.” 
            “One big difference here is we have to be more vigilant when landing at a point of injury,” Feddersen said.  Scanning for mines, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and the enemy who just came in contact with an injured soldier are part of every mission in Iraq. 

            Feddersen will turn 37 on this deployment.  He served as an enlisted military policeman for the first 5 of his 17 years of service and also attended college.  He went to Officer Candidate School in 1997 followed by Army Aviation School.  Feddersen is married and the father of two boys.  His current deployment is his second.  He was deployed to the Balkans with the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2005.

Friday, September 23, 2016

MEDEVAC Training at Fort AP Hill

These photos are from MEDEVAC Training at Fort AP Hill at Annual Training in 2013 for 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. SFC Jeff Kwiecien is supervising the training.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flight Medic Training Soldiers in Combat Medicine

These photos are from Annual Training 2014 for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.  Flight Medic Staff Sergeant Pamela Leggore is training medics to work under combat conditions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

One More Medal Reminds Me of Stuff That Doesn't Get Awards

On Sunday, September 11th, I received what is very likely the last medal I will get from the military. My unit gave me the Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal.  The citation talks about all the things I did for the unit.  It was about writing stories, taking pictures and re-enlisting after a quarter century as a civilian.

In other words, it talks about the kinds of things I did which got praise at the time I did them.  So the 200 words of praise in Army prose was about the stuff I did right and made someone higher in the chain of command happy.

The things I did in the military that were the most difficult and that I was most proud of were not the kind of things that people get medals for.

In 1973 when I got blinded in a missile explosion, I got no award.  Since the explosion happened on a test range in Utah, it was not a combat injury.  I recovered my sight and the use of two fingers that were bent and broken in the blast.  I will always be thankful for the surgeons who got the wire and other bits of shrapnel out of my eyes, but they had to operate six times to get all the metal out.  Facing he next surgery and that feeling of a wire being pulled from my eye was one of the more difficult moments of my life.  As was the night after the blast when I overheard a nurse say I would be permanently blind.

There was a moment in Iraq when I got aboard a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq in a brownout sandstorm so bad we could only occasionally see the other Blackhawk we were flying with.  At that moment, I thought about the big turbine engines on the roof of the Blackhawk just above the passenger area and about the big gear box between the engines that drive the big rotor blades.  In the crash I imagined, my guts were squeezed like toothpaste out of my Kevlar vest when all that machinery on top of the helicopter crushed everyone inside.  The flight was fine.  The weather cleared on the way back, and I got the pictures the commander wanted.

I am grateful for the award, but every award reminds of the actual best and worst moments I had in the military, not the ones for which I got the medal.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

Fifteen years ago, I saw this image on the computers of the dot-com where I was working at the time.  I knew a dozen people who worked within blocks of the World Trade Center.  I called them.  I know that when you are inside a disaster, you can lose the larger perspective. I wanted to be just a bit of  perspective from outside New York City for Joe Chang, Helga Tilton, Esther D'Amico, Rob Westervelt, Rick Mullin and Andrew Wood among many others.  Those I was able to reach reacted like the New York journalists they are, calm and ridiculously confident that all would be well.

In 2009, in Iraq, I spoke about September 11, 2001, and my long road to Iraq from the day Islamic Terrorists attacked America.  In Iraq, I spoke about Helga Tilton.  She walked home from south of Ground Zero to the northern end of Manhattan in heels.  She was born in Germany in 1943 in Frankfurt, one of the most heavily bombed of the Germany cities.  Helga grew up in rubble, and now in 2001, at nearly 60 years old in her adopted country of America, she walked through that rubble to go home.  Helga died in November of 2007, not long after I re-enlisted. I still wonder if the dust of her birthplace and the dust of Ground Zero contributed to her death.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Combat Medics and MEDEVAC: Soldiers who save other soldier's lives

MEDEVAC Blackhawk helicopter landing at Al Kut, Iraq.

From the time I deployed to Iraq until now, I have written many posts about MEDEVAC and the medics, pilots and doctors who deliver Army medicine in the field.

Here are some of them:

Pamela Leggore, flight medic.

Sara Christensen, pilot.

David Doud, flight surgeon.

Kevin Scott, flight surgeon.

Jeff Kwiecien, flight medic.

All-Female MEDEVAC Crew in Iraq.

Cynthia Dalton, flight medic.

Quincy Northern, flight medic.

Dunker Training for MEDEVAC flight crews.

MEDEVAC Response time almost cut in half, Peter Huggins, pilot.

Anthony Meador, pilot.

Matt Stevenson, pilot.

Suzy Danielson, pilot.

MEDEVAC Chase Bird Crew.

MEDEVAC Pictures from Iraq.

Quincy Northern, flight medic.

All-Female MEDEVAC Crew

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Retirement, or Not, Update

Earlier this week I spoke to two staffers in the offices of Senator Pat Toomey in Allentown and Philadelphia. Both of the men I spoke to were enthusiastic and helpful. They asked questions about my status and said they hoped they could help.  

If enthusiasm can get me back in the Army to serve my last year and retire, the guys I spoke to in Toomey's office will make it happen.

Today I got a letter from a staffer of President Barack Obama.  She said the White House referred my case to National Guard Bureau in Washington, which referred the matter to the Pennsylvania National Guard in Harrisburg.  They already said No, so I am not looking good there.

My first appeal letter was to my Congressman, Joe Pitts.  His staff sent my case to National Guard Bureau in Washington, which referred the matter to the Pennsylvania National Guard in Harrisburg.  They said No. Case closed with the Congressman.

Of the three, I have no hope with Pitts, little hope with Obama and some hope with Toomey.

That's my Labor Day Weekend Update.

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

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