Face of Defense: Staff Officer Flies Medevac Missions
By Army Sgt. Neil Gussman
Special to American Forces Press Service
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2009 Army Maj. Brett Feddersen sat in the ready room next to the medical evacuation hangar at 11 p.m. Hunched over his personal computer, he was editing a document for a meeting the next day.
Army Maj. Brett Feddersen serves both as a staff officer and as a medical evacuation pilot in Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Neil Gussman
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I’ve got to get some sleep in case we get a 2 a.m. call,” he said, mostly to the air. The rest of his crew was asleep or resting, waiting for the call.
Feddersen is a senior staff officer with 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Brigade, but two to four days every week he is a medevac pilot on a 48-hour rotation with Alaska-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment. His shift will be over at 9 the following morning, but he had a long flight in the afternoon and a long day of meetings before and after the flight.
“I have to stay balanced,” he said. “I have to stay rested, but I have to complete the mission.”
It’s a challenge he faces both in civilian life and on deployment. Senior Trooper Feddersen has served with the Pennsylvania State Police since 1995, most recently flying with an aviation patrol unit in the state’s southeastern area. Flying medevac missions in addition to his staff duties here makes life hectic, he said, but he added that he lives to fly.
Feddersen arranges his life to complete the staff tasks to the best of his ability, making the time necessary to fly medevac Black Hawk helicopters every week. He is serious and professional when discussing staff duties, but is all smiles and broad hand and arm gestures when he’s describing a favorite medevac mission. Even while crawling on top of the helicopter underneath the rotors for pre-flight checks before starting the engines, he clearly is enjoying himself whether under, on top or at the controls of a Black Hawk.
The major said flying medevac missions in Iraq has many similarities with flying for his civilian job.
“Flying for the state police is always on an emergency basis,” he explained. “The mission can be a lost child, lost hikers or hunters, or a bad-guy pursuit. We get the call, we go.”
Medevac is the same. For the first 24 hours of his 48-hour shift, Feddersen and his crew are “second up” -- the backup team that goes if a call comes in and “first up” already is on a mission. During the first day, the crew must be ready to take off within a half hour and can travel only a short distance from the ready hangar. On the second day, the crew moves to “first up,” and must be prepared to fly within 15 minutes of receiving a medevac call to meet the Army standard. In Company C, the standard is eight minutes.
Whether at Ali Air Base in Iraq or in Pennsylvania’s Twin Valley, the emergency response mission gives Feddersen a sense of accomplishment.
“We make a difference here,” he said. “When a soldier is down, we do everything we can to get them care and get them home. At home, when we find the lost child or get the bad guy, it’s a great feeling. One big difference here is we have to be more vigilant when landing at a point of injury.”
(Army Sgt. Neil Gussman serves with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.)