Story by Capt. Robert Taylor

Soldiers from the Idaho Army National Guard’s Detachment 2, C Company, 1-168th General Support Aviation Battalion were welcomed home from the unit’s deployment to Afghanistan by Gov. Brad Little and senior Idaho National Guard leaders in a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony in Sun Valley Saturday.

More than 30 Soldiers from the unit deployed to Fort Hood in April 2018 for training and then to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Soldiers began returning individually in February and the ceremony marked the first time the unit reunited since leaving Afghanistan.

“I am extremely proud of the professional service each member of this unit provides to our state and nation and very grateful that they all returned safely home to their loved ones,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander, Idaho National Guard. “This service requires many sacrifices, not only from the deploying Guardsmen, but even more so, from their families who carry on while they are gone. We are committed to providing our Guardsmen and families with all the possible care and support as they integrate back into their lifestyles here in Idaho.”

The UH-60 Black Hawk unit provided aeromedical evacuation support for the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade in the Kandahar and Helmand providences. Throughout the deployment, Medevac crews collectively flew approximately 100 missions and more than 1,000 hours.

Soldiers worked 24-hour shifts and had 15 minutes to be in the air to respond to calls from up to 40 miles away.

“It’s an instant adrenaline rush,” said flight paramedic Staff Sgt. David Egersdorf. “There’s nothing I can compare saving someone’s life to, whether it’s an American, an Afghanistani or a foreign service member, it’s fulfilling.”

As an aeromedical evacuation unit, its UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with defibrillators, medical fluids, oxygen tanks, medications and other advanced combat life-saving tools in addition to an external hoist system and forward-looking infrared cameras. Flight crews consist of two pilots, a crew chief and flight paramedic.

The detachment stood up in March 2017. Prior to deploying, aviators and crew chiefs had to be trained on hoist operations and other critical medevac procedures. Combat medics from other Idaho Army National Guard units were selected and trained as flight paramedics.

“In less than a year, everyone came together to help stand up the unit, learn the mission and mobilize,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Hill, detachment commander. “Not only did we go over there, do our jobs and have everyone come home in one piece, we saved lives on the battlefield. There are people alive today because of the efforts everyone put in the past two years.”

During the deployment, the unit worked closely with similar units from the Maine and Washington D.C. Army National Guards to provide medical support to coalition forces.

The Department of Defense’s Yellow Ribbon Program provides assistance to National Guard and Reserve members before, during and after deployments by connecting unit members and their families with local resources and information regarding health care, education and financial and legal benefits. Soldiers and their families attended a Yellow Ribbon event prior to the unit’s deployment and family members attended an event during the unit’s deployment.

Unit members and their families are in Sun Valley to attend a two-day reintegration program, which concludes Sunday.

This deployment marks the eighth time in the past decade an Idaho Army National Guard aviation unit deployed.

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