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Utah pilots return from medical evacuation mission in Afghanistan

By Nicole Gonzales | Posted - Feb. 3, 2010 at 6:10 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A crew for the Utah Air National Guard is back from a medical evacuation mission. They were based in Germany and flew in and out of Afghanistan to pick up injured people.

The 191st Air Refueling Squadron at Salt Lake's Utah Air National Guard Base seldom gets the opportunity to go on these missions. On a day-to-day basis, they refuel jets, but on this trip they got to really see the effects of war.

"To fly into Afghanistan and Bagram, it was a lot different," Maj. Corey Love said.

Mjrs. Love and Dan Boyack experienced the mission for the first time together. They left on Christmas Day, flew to Germany, and then made four trips into Afghanistan under the dark protection of night.

A medical team of 12 flight surgeons, nurses and technicians joined them on the seven-hour flight. They landed with their lights off and only had a couple hours to load the plane with injured patients.

The back of this plane is basically turned into a mini hospital. They can carry up to 25 patients.

"They had all the bells and whistles you'd see in a hospital," Love said. "You know, all the machines and monitors and IVs and things like that."

"One of the ladies was a 29-year-old Canadian lady who just lost a leg," Boyack said. "It was very sobering to see her injury and see the people who were serving over there."

While the squadron was there, a suicide bomber killed seven CIA agents and injured several others. They picked up some of the wounded.

"We were able to bring those [patients] home," Love said. "So yeah, it was rewarding. It was personal, sobering. It was a good mission."

On the flight back, medical crews can perform emergency surgery, monitor the patients and provide drugs -- all while the pilots try to keep the ride to Germany as smooth as possible

"We wanted to get back as quick as we could and try to make it as comfortable for them as we could," Love said.

"It made it very real, rather than just watching it on the news each night. It was interesting to be a part of," Boyack said.

From start to finish, these missions are 22-hour days. A different squadron is scheduled to go out this March.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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