Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 26, 2012

Military helicopter unit trains across Indiana

Grissom Air Reserve Base — Outside a small southern Indiana town, 41 soldiers lay wounded and dying.

Military helicopters carrying medical teams swarmed the area, evacuating the victims and picking up and treating the injured.

But the scene wasn’t a war zone. It was an intense simulation staged by the Army National Guard to prepare helicopter-based medical evacuation units for deployment overseas.

And for the last week, similar scenes have turned Indiana into an imaginary combat zone for the 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion Medevac unit training at Grissom Air Reserve Base.

More than 130 Guardsmen flying up to 12 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are using the base as their home station to learn the ins and outs of treating and transporting wounded soldiers before deployment to southwest Asia this fall.

For Sergeant Scott Darrall, who served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, the “mass casualty” war zone scenario was one of the most intense simulations the unit performed.

“It was a pretty stressful event, but we came together well,” he said. “It actually went pretty smooth.”

But not every training scenario is so fierce. The unit also conducts eight to 15 daily missions aimed at buffing up skills in areas like flight operations, aircraft maintenance, medical treatment, logistics, communications and ground refueling.

“We try to replicate what the guys are going to see when they go out into the field,” said Major Bryon Blohm, commander of the battalion.

He said the medical evacuation unit is like the Army’s 911, providing air ambulances that offer enroute care to wounded soldiers. Often, the high-level treatment troops receive in the helicopters is the difference between life and death, he said.

Each Black Hawk houses one medic, one crew chief and two pilots. The helicopters have enough space for three stable, walking wounded soldiers and two litters for critical patients.

In the rear, a medical suite houses bandages, tourniquets, IV solutions, heart-rate and vital-care monitors and sled-like skids that can be lowered into battle areas if the unit is unable to land.

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