The 21-member detachment came together only a year ago to serve as a medical evacuation, or Medevac, unit. Col. Brent Bracewell, director of the Joint Staff Headquarters, told about 200 people in attendance that Georgia Army Aviation accepted the task of sending the Detachment 2, Charlie Company 1-169th General Support Aviation Battalion, with its three Blackhawk helicopters, as part of former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to help improve the odds of survival for soldiers wounded in battle.
“He didn’t want to leave soldiers on the battlefield,” Bracewell said. “There was actually a case where a soldier died on the battlefield because there wasn’t a Medevac to pick him up.”
During World War II, only 40 percent of soldiers injured on the battlefield survived; now, that number stands at over 90 percent, Bracewell said.
“That’s because we have the people here who get the soldiers off the battlefield,” he said.
The detachment will join up with groups from Tennessee and Maryland to provide assistance in Afghanistan, Bracewell said.
Capt. Jennifer Jaacks of Woodstock will lead the detachment. Though she’s been in the Georgia National Guard for 10 years, this will be her first overseas deployment.
“It’s extremely rewarding to help people and be the difference between life and death,” she said.
A single mother, Jaacks will leave her 2-year-old daughter, Sophie, with her father during the yearlong deployment. While leaving her daughter behind will be the toughest part, Jaacks feels good about how far the others in her group have come since they started training a year ago.
“Everybody’s grown in their skills and grown in their abilities,” she said. “It’s a great group of guys, and I’m fortunate to work with every one of them.”
While many of those leaving Friday will miss their family, Sgt. 1st Class Steve Hebblewaite of Kennesaw said he hoped to get to see his son, 1st Lt. Nicholas Hebblewaite, who is currently a platoon leader between Kabul and Kandahar.
But only on his down time, he hastened to add.
Sgt. 1st Class Hebblewaite first deployed to Grenada in the early 1980s. He said that some of the military’s medical practices have come full circle since then.
“Believe it or not, a lot of the medical techniques went away in the last 20 years, but now their resurfacing,” he said. “We’re trying new things all the time.”
The soldiers left Dobbins Joint Reserve Base on their UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters for Fort Hood, Texas, where they will complete training before heading to Afghanistan in about a month, Sgt. 1st Class Hebblewaite said. Once in harm’s way, they will pick up injured soldiers and others who are down.
“The mission is to pick up just about anybody,” he said. “We don’t discriminate, whether it’s an insurgent, a civilian, a child.”
The half-hour ceremony included a video montage of National Guard activity, with the Foo Fighters’ song “My Hero,” playing behind it. Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, Georgia’s adjutant general, said the song’s chorus of “There goes my hero, he’s ordinary,” was appropriate.
“The pages of history are filled with stories of ordinary heroes,” he said.