SPECIAL UNIT PROFILE

DC-NG 121st Med Company leads the way with the UH72A

Eurocopter’s militarized EC145 proves its worth as medevac asset for National Guard.


DC National Guard Aviation Command’s Operations Officer CW4 Matt Sweet coordinates unit missions and maintains records.

With the term ‘light’ come different capabilities—not fewer.” While it refines its mission capability with a new aircraft type, the unit is engaged in setting up local state and federal agency interoperation.

“Regionally, we are talking with first responders and learning to understand each other’s way of doing business,” says Escherich.

He adds, “We intend to train with them before we have to fly a mission with them.” Local agencies involved in preliminary discussions include the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Dept’s Technical Rescue Team.

The unit will start training with civilian EMS providers this year in conjunction with the US Public Health Service [the uniformed branch of the Dept of Health & Human Services (DHHS)].

Recognizing that the Army must integrate smoothly into the civilian response to serious incidents, including disasters—and that the first responder community has established ways of managing such events—company leaders have been educated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s National Incident Management System (NIMS).

They are also becoming familiar with the Na­tional Response Framework (NRF) Emer­gency Support Function (ESF) #8 Health & Medical Services Annex, which outlines public health and medical service responsibilities in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Interagency operation is aided by the UH72’s avionics package, which allows crewmembers to communicate directly with first responders—a feature unavailable on the old radio-equipped UH1s. Escherich notes that the 121st has received more calls to participate in joint operations within the NCR since (and due to) its participation in last January’s Presidential Inauguration.

And the unit has already participated in a joint training exercise—Capital Shield, an MDW exercise with Joint Force Head­quarters–National Capital Region (JFHQ–NCR) and local government fire and EMS first responders.

121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance) will be fully mission capable by Jun 2010, according to Escherich. As it works toward this date, the unit is still reducing start procedure times. “In medevac standby mode (in effect, with advance notice), we can launch 1 helicopter within 15 min of receiving the mission,” he says.

“We hope to continue to hone our procedures to further reduce our launch times.” When not in standby mode, launch time is less than 30 min.

Maintenance

Master Sgt Marlin Leonard leads a team of 8 A&P technicians. He reports that UH72 op­erational readiness is already above 90%.

Master Sgt Marlin Leonard is in charge of maintenance. A former US marine, he has been stationed at DAA for his entire 25 years of National Guard service. A team of 8 full-time A&P technicians report to him.

All operator/intermediate-level maintenance is done at DAA. This includes component replacement and repair as well as work on the Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts that power the UH72.

Within the National Guard, UH72 maintenance is a hybrid civilian/ military operation. A Eurocopter tech rep (technically a contract field service representative or CFSR) was assigned to DAA for 1 year starting in Mar 2009 and serves in an advisory role while facility technicians become familiar with the new helicopter.

Bellamy describes the CFSR’s contribution as invaluable, adding, “We’re starting to learn what the aircraft can do and what we can do with the aircraft.” While Leonard admits that there is still much to learn, he is gratified to note that the UH72s are already achieving readiness figures in the 90%-plus range and thus exceeding Army availability requirements.

Moving forward

For Escherich, one important—and exciting—part of commanding the 121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance) as it makes this transition is the opportunity it gives the National Guard to continue developing “more relevant” citizen soldier skills.

Media attention surrounding the UH72 “is increasing public awareness of this new asset and of the National Guard in the NCR,” says Escherich. “We now work with the US Public Health Service, and we’re more actively engaged in federal interagency operations.” He concludes, “We’re doing what soldiers do best—solving problems. This UH72 gives us a lot to work with, and we’re looking forward to shaping the future.”

 

UH72A in brief

American Eurocopter UH72A deliveries began in Dec 2006. The Army’s proposed total buy is 345 aircraft. Of these, 200 will go to the National Guard—192 for Security & Support Battalions, 8 for Eastern Army Aviation Training Site (EAATS).

Eurocopter builds the UH72 at Columbus MS. By mid-January it had delivered 93 UH72As to the Army and 5 to the US Naval Test Pilot School. The UH72A Lakota is a military version of Eurocopter’s twin-turbine EC145.

Designed to meet the Army’s requirements for a versatile light utility helicopter, it incorporates commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies and its construction makes extensive use of lightweight materials.

The UH72A cockpit includes a vehicle and engine multifunction display (VEMD) and is night vision goggle (NVG) compatible. A standard instrumentation package includes autopilot and dual GPS, one of which is linked to the autopilot.

With its rear clamshell doors and sliding side doors, the UH72A’s main cabin can be reconfigured to meet various mission requirements. In medevac configuration the Lakota can accommodate 2 stretchers and associated equipment plus 2 rear-facing seats for medics, while for troop-carrying tasks it can seat up to 9 soldiers.

The UH72A’s standard (non-medevac) mission equipment package includes FLIR and a communications/data kit.

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