First Flight Medics Awarded Combat Medical Badge
First Flight Medics Awarded CMBs
Tikrit, Iraq - Seven U.S. Army flight medics assigned to Company C, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, received the first Combat Medic Badges awarded to MEDEVAC crews for their actions during combat operations in northern Iraq while flying in support of Task Force Iron, 1st Armored Division.
Staff Sgt. Kory Werts, Staff Sgt. Lanier Patterson, Sgt. Ethan Rogers, Sgt. Jovan Salazar, Sgt. Tyrone Jordan, Spc. Nathaniel Northrup and Spc. Stacey Dill received the CMB in a ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on July 28. The seven awardees are all based out of Fort Riley, Kan. and deployed to Iraq with the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division during the fall of 2007.
The CMB recognizes the unique service and selfless sacrifices of medical personnel while in contact with enemy or under fire.
"This is a big deal when you think about the magnitude of this because it is the first time flight medics have received the CMB. It is an interesting point in history," said Col. Jessie O. Farrington, commander CAB 1ID.
Previously medical personnel serving in division-level medical companies, ground ambulance and medical clearing companies, Mobile-Army Surgical Hospital (MASH), Combat-Support Hospital (CSH) and aero-medical evacuation units were not eligible for the CMB. According to Army regulations, flight medics could not receive the CMB.
"In the past the combat medical badge was only awarded to those medics serving with ground units. For one reason or another flight medics were unable to qualify for the badge," said Rogers.
The battles of today have no distinct lines, as any area can become a combat zone without warning. This type of warfare has dramatically altered the traditional support role of MEDEVAC companies, placing their medical personnel into more multiple direct combat situations than any previous American conflict.
"They are willing to go anywhere anytime to do the hard work and it's just impressive," said Farrington.
"When they get the call they don't know what they are getting into. All they know is that they are going to save a Soldier's lives, or any human being for that matter. These guys are truly angels of mercy," said Farrington.
Both male and female flight medics, previously regarded as strictly medical support personnel, are now drawn into the fight against terror extending the opportunity to be awarded the CMB.
"It is sort of a thankless job. Most people think all we do is pick-up and drop-off patients and only give us credit for that. We don't get credit for the times when we retrieve patients under fire or treat them while in flight," said Rogers.
"It is very special we are finally being recognized for that time when we actually work to save a patient's life," said Rogers.
The effort to award the CMB to flight crews gained momentum through the recent involvement of Army leadership, who played a major role in pushing for the badge.
"Several months ago I was approached by Lt. Col. Michael Tetu, 2-1 commander and we discussed the need to do something to recognize MEDEVAC flight crews since they did not qualify for the CMB," said Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the Task Force Iron commanding general.
"These air [flight] medics go into some very tough conditions and probably face conditions ten times tougher than medics on the ground. What makes this so special is the fact that these flight crews treat patients in the air and to this day these medics and medics like them have never lost a patient in flight," said Hertling.
During the ceremony Hertling recounted how he wrote a letter to Lieutenant General Michael D. Rochelle, Deputy Chief of Staff G-1, United States Army to see if Army regulations could be changed to allow flight medics to receive the CMB.
"This isn't right we need to do something to change the regulations. We have to do something to get these flight medics the recognition they deserve," Hertling wrote to Rochelle.
The end result caused a change to current Army regulations that now allow CMBs to be awarded to flight medics.
"So these seven people are the first and I very happy to be here to see the 'Duty First' brigade, 1st Infantry Division, be the first to award the Combat Medic Badge to air MEDEVAC medics," said Hertling.
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