NEWS | Feb. 8, 2021

Colorado National Guard’s Aerial Medical Evacuation unit deploys to Middle East

By Colorado National Guard Public Affairs

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado National Guard will host a departure ceremony for approximately 60 Colorado Army National Guard members from 1st Battalion 168th Aviation Regiment, Feb. 9, 2021, at 9:45 a.m. at Southeast Christian Church, Parker, Colorado.

The deploying Soldiers including aviators, maintainers and logisticians will provide aerial medical evacuation capabilities to coalition forces throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.

In preparation for this deployment the warriors of the 168th have completed two rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Ft Polk, Louisiana, and a rotation at Exercise Northern Strike, the National Guard’s premier joint fires training mission in Michigan.

“As Coloradans we should be proud to have such a diverse and professional group of Aviators stepping up to support the needs of our brothers and sisters supporting overseas operations,” the Adjutant General of Colorado U.S. Army Force Brig. Gen. Laura Clellan said. “Thank you to the families and employers for the continued support of our service members during a time when the Guard has been called on more than ever before.”

During the Korean War, the helicopter became the primary means for evacuating the most seriously wounded, injured, and ill soldiers from combat for life-saving treatment. Helicopter medical evacuation, or Medevac, became central to the Army Medical Department's concept of battlefield care and evacuation. During the Vietnam War the term “Dustoff” became widely known as the universal call-sign for the Army MEDEVAC which still holds true today.

“The 168th has endured intense medical recertification and validation plus hundreds of flight hours during day and night environments and in preparation of this Dustoff mission throughout the Middle East,” Commander, U.S. Army Captain Erik Virtue said. "The Soldiers of Charlie Company, Echo Company, Delta Company, and our AVIM (Aviation Intermediate Maintenance) are some of best trained and motivated Soldiers I have ever had the opportunity to lead, and I feel truly blessed to be part of this organization. This is one of the premier aviation units in all of the United States Army, and our loved ones will selflessly serve in order to protect our nation from our adversaries."

The unit will join with teams from the New Mexico National Guard to form a full MEDEVAC company.

COARNG Medevac has deployed four other times from 2007-2014 in support of overseas operations. At least half of the members have previously deployed.

Members of the unit have also responded to multiple search and rescue missions in Colorado’s high country and have been called upon to fight wildland fires throughout the state.