Army pilots Afghan
tenure was stressful
Army medevac pilot Gerald Stanford spent the last six months in Afghanistan flying more than 20 air ambulance missions, much of the time shuttling injured civilians.
"They ranged from car accidents to injuries caused by land mines," said Chief Warrant Officer Stanford, who has been flying helicopters for eight years. "They were taken for treatment at the hospital in Bagram."
He said flying in Afghanistan was "difficult and stressful because of the enemy out there and the possible threat they posed to you and crew."
Stanford, 34, said yesterday he did not think his Black Hawk helicopter ever was fired upon. However, "once we were called into a LZ (landing zone) that was considered to be hot."
"But maybe it had been cleaned up by attack helicopters before we got there, because we landed without incident."
Stanford was part of the 60 aviators and crew members from the 68th Medical Company, which left Wheeler Army Field in late March and was stationed at Bagram and Kandahar.
Recently, the soldiers who left in March returned home and were replaced by other members of the 68th, whose motto is "Dust off Hawaii." "Dust off" refers to the Vietnam War, when helicopter aeromedical evacuation missions blew dust, dirt, blankets and tents all over the men on the ground.
Because the Army provides around-the-clock air ambulance service on Oahu under the Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic Program, the unit had to leave behind five of its nine UH-60A Black Hawks and half of its 120-member unit.
Stanford, who started his Army career as a military policeman, has logged 1,500 flight hours in Black Hawks and UH-1 Huey helicopters since graduating from flight school in 1995.
Since arriving in Hawaii four years ago, he has flown more than 100 MAST missions. This was his first deployment since joining the Army 15 years ago.
Being separated from his family and his three children, ages 10, 12 and 14, was the hardest part of the Afghan deployment, Stanford said.