MEDEVAC Soldiers depart Virginia in advance of Kosovo deployment

Virginia National Guard Soldiers leave the Chesterfield County Airport aboard four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters Jan. 5, 2017, to start their upcoming deployment to Kosovo. The Soldiers are assigned to Detachment 2, Company C, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment and will head first to Texas for several weeks of training before heading overseas to begin their nine-month rotation in Kosovo. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

CHESTERFIELD, Va. —After more than a year of training, approximately 25 Soldiers assigned to Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment said goodbye to the Commonwealth of Virginia and officially began their federal mobilization that will take them to Kosovo in the coming weeks. The Soldiers in the unit gathered along with family members, friends and fellow Soldiers for a departure ceremony Jan. 4, 2018, at the Chesterfield County Airport and then departed in small groups in the days that followed, with the largest group leaving Jan. 5 on four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

“Today’s ceremony is a simple event that symbolizes the farewell of our departing Soldiers as they prepare for onward movement to the mobilization station and to the European theater of operations,” said Maj. Craig Lewis, the master of ceremonies for the event.

The unit will train at Fort Hood, Texas, for the next several weeks before heading on to Kosovo where they will spend nine months serving as part of KFOR 24, the 24th rotation of U.S. Soldiers to support the multinational peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. There, the Soldiers will conduct aerial medical evacuation support to the multinational task force.

“This is a phenomenal mission,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “It speaks to the United States and our role on the world stage in maintaining peace.”

A Virginia National Guard Soldier hugs his family goodbye as he prepares to leave the Chesterfield County Airport aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Jan. 5, 2017, to start his upcoming deployment to Kosovo. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

At the departure ceremony, Williams joined Virginia Delegate Nick Freitas and Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, and former and current commanders of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment as the ceremony’s official party.

During his remarks, Williams thanked the family members in attendance as well as first responders from Chesterfield Fire and Rescue who have trained with the detachment over the past several years.

In order to prepare for the deployment, the Soldiers of Detachment 2 spent two weeks at Fort Pickett validating their proficiency with Army Warrior Tasks in October, and then spent another two weeks working on aviation medical evacuation training in November.

“Along with our normal flying regime, we now have six full-training critical care flight paramedics,” explained Capt. Michael Kone, commander of the detachment. He said his medics completed over nine months of additional medical training in order to meet the Department of Defense directive that ordered medics to transition to critical care flight paramedics. “Virginia is ahead of the power curve,” he said.

“You’re the first unit to go out the door with a full complement of 100% of paramedics,” said Lt. Col. William Taylor, commander of Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, during his remarks. “From what I have seen, you’re more than ready, willing and able to take this mission to the next level.”

The federal mobilization to Kosovo will be the first deployment for Detachment 2, which was federally recognized just four years ago, in 2014. While newly formed, the unit’s creation marked a return of the air ambulance capability to the Virginia National Guard. Virginia’s 986th Medical Detachment served as the state’s former air ambulance asset and flew the UH-1 Huey, saw service in Vietnam and was one of the first Virginia National Guard units called into service during Desert Storm. Before the departure ceremony, members of the 986th presented Kone with a Virginia flag.

“The unit has proven that it is dedicated to providing outstanding aero-medical evacuation assets to the commonwealth with its impeccably skilled pilots, expertly trained flight paramedics and outstanding ground support personnel,” Lewis said during the departure ceremony.

“We’re gonna accomplish the mission,” Kone said.

Soldiers assigned to the Chesterfield-based Detachment 2, Company C, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment conduct a departure ceremony in front of friends, family and fellow Soldiers Jan. 4, 2017, in Chesterfield, Virginia. The Soldiers will deploy for nine months as part of KFOR 24, the 24th rotation of U.S. Soldiers to support the multinational peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)