Editor’s note: Guardsmen from western Nevada, including Fernley and Fallon, are deployed to Afghanistan with this Nevada Army National Guard aviation unit.
SHINDAND AIR BASE, Afghanistan - National Guard units are bringing a whole new level of experience to Task Force Nightmare here in western Afghanistan. One of the primary units sharing its knowledge with the task force is Company C, 1/168th General Support Aviation Battalion, from the Nevada Army Guard.
Headquartered in Reno, the 1/168th has been deployed in Afghanistan for nine months performing medical evacuation missions aboard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The unit includes about 40 Soldiers from Nevada as well as Soldiers from the Washington and California National Guard.
Task Force Nightmare also includes an AH-64 Apache company – Company C, 1st Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment – from the Missouri National Guard. The task force is overseen by the Combat Aviation Brigade from the 1st Infantry Division
“The amount of experience within these two companies is incredible,” said Lt. Col Fred Dufault, the task force commander. “The Soldiers and leaders are great at anticipating needs of the task force.”
The National Guard Soldiers have seen it all before and have the experience and wisdom to make the right choices, said Dufault.
“Neither company is one to keep its knowledge or experience to themselves, either,” Dufault said. “Each company brings its unique strengths to the Nightmare family.”
Many of the soldiers in 135th Aviation Regiment are full-time civilian employees of the Missouri National Guard, and perform the same job here as they do back home.
“Most of my Soldiers are depot-level maintenance technicians who fix these helicopters full-time back home,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Carter, an Apache maintenance platoon sergeant. “Others have prior experience in different airframes and maintenance jobs.”
The medics in Company C, 1/168th Aviation Regiment, are in a similar situation. Most work full time in either emergency medical services or in the medical field in their home states.
“Out of the 25 medics in my company, 19 are either paramedics or registered nurses who work in the medical field full time back home,” said 1st Sgt. Joseph Loader, himself a combat medic and a certified paramedic. “I even have a trained physician’s assistant filling in as medic.”
The 168th Aviation Regiment Soldiers are familiar with the combat aviation brigade’s back-wall medic program as well. The program places an extra medic inside the medical evacuation helicopters to help care for patients. The additional medic improves the evaluation of a patient’s condition and level of treatment en route to a hospital.
Although Afghan security forces perform the majority of casualty evacuations in Afghanistan, medical evacuation by International Security Assistance Forces including the 1/168th remains highly sought after, especially in critical cases.
“I truly believe the (Nevada Guard’s) medevac company is the most experienced out there and is at the top their game,” Dufault said.