Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Supporting the Troops Who Support Us

Here's good news for some soldiers, for their families, and for the people who live in my community: Guard Unit Home After Lengthy Wait

Nearly 100 families gathered at the AMC hangar near Portland International Airport on Sunday night, awaiting the return of 33 members of the Oregon National Guard's 1042 Medical Company (Air Ambulance). They were mobilized in July. In the past 10 years, the Salem-based company has served in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; it was the second time it had been deployed to Afghanistan in the past three year. ***

The 1042nd, which is often called for search-and-rescue operations in the Northwest, returned with five Black Hawk helicopters it took to Afghanistan. While it was gone, the 1042nd had eight helicopters available in Oregon.

Steve Rollins, president of Portland Mountain Rescue, said fears that the deployment would impede rescue operations at home were never realized. But Rollins said that may have been because his group performed only seven rescue missions last year, instead of the usual dozen or so.

The helicopters "can make a life-or-death difference when we have a critically injured patient or a large search area," he said. "We absolutely welcome them back."

You know who these guys are. They're the ones who fly into hostile fire, not to fight, but to rescue and evacuate the wounded. Remember the live TV coverage of the helicopter crashing on Mt. Hood a couple years back? The helicopters rescuing climbers from an icy crevasse at just under 11,000' elevation that day were from the 1042nd and a similar Air Force Reserve unit, the 939th Rescue Wing, which lost one of its Pavehawks (a heavier version of the Blackhawk) when it lost lift, dipped a rotor into the mountainside, and rolled 1,000' down the mountain before coming to rest. They're the biggest heroes our nation has, bar none.

Thank God there are men like these to help our troops when there's a war. But when there's not a war, we need them here at home, because they play a critical role in real-life civilian search and rescue missions, and save civilian lives.

So it's simple: when they're away, we're less safe. That's OK if there's a good reason for them to be away; it's their job, and bless them for it. And their most recent deployment in Afghanistan is one that many people, including many liberals, agree was necessary. But we (and our leaders) also need to understand that when the 1042nd and similar units are away from the U.S. in an unnecessary war, as I believe the one in Iraq is, then we at home are unnecessarily endangered.

But most importantly, and all politics aside: I'm glad as hell they're home now, safe and sound, for their sake and for ours.


The Film Diva said...

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, so my eyes are welling up reading this post. I'm glad to hear these guys are back, a high school friend of mine's husband serves and I'd been receiving updates from the "front" through her -- now I know why they stopped so abruptly!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad they stopped abruptly for a good reason! Yeah, these are great guys. I didn't mention it in the post, but I'm a volunteer with Portland Mountain Rescue. I love the 1042nd!