Delaware medevac unit readies for overseas deployment

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 Delaware National Guard Detachment 1, F Company, 1-126th Aviation soldiers deploying to Kuwait (Shirley Min/WHYY)

Delaware National Guard Detachment 1, F Company, 1-126th Aviation soldiers deploying to Kuwait (Shirley Min/WHYY)

It was a bittersweet day for the Delaware Army National Guard on Monday as it prepares to send 20 members of its medevac unit to Kuwait. 

The soldiers with 1-126th Aviation unit will leave behind family and friends for almost a year. The time away includes almost two months of training at Fort Hood in Texas, where the soldiers will meet and train in conjunction with a larger unit.

A nine month deployment to Kuwait will follow.

“We wish ’em Godspeed and we assure our soldiers that we’re there to take care of their families,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the Delaware National Guard’s commanding officer.

The aeromedical evacuation unit’s primary mission in the Middle East will be patient evacuation. Their secondary missions, Camponelli said, will be to assist the U.S. Navy with over-water recovery and to transfer patients between hospitals.

“There’s a lot of troops in and around the Kuwait area in the Middle East, so they’ll be able to respond in a moment’s notice to go out and take care of our deployed service members,” Vavala said.

This is Capt. Andrew Camponelli’s second deployment in three years.

“It’s never easy to leave, that’s for sure,” said Camponelli, who will oversee the soldiers. “So I look forward to take this unit over, do great things and come back soon.”

Both Camponelli and Vavala described the medevac unit as a veteran force. Including Camponelli, 13 soldiers deployed in 2011; for seven members of the unit, this will be their third deployment. Originally scheduled to deploy this fall, the Delaware National Guard bumped up the timetable.

“To be able to mobilize within such short notice for a National Guard unit, which is typically unheard of with only a six month call to the mission, and to provide such a force, as veteran as this, really exemplifies the capabilities within the Delaware Army National Guard,” Camponelli said. 

Comings and goings

The 126th will relieve 70 members of the 3-238th General Support Aviation Battalion who are nearing the end of a 12 month active-duty tour.

Delaware Army National Guard Spokesman Lt. Col. Len Gratteri said the 150th Engineer Company out of Newark is due home by the end of the month. The soldiers deployed to Afghanistan last August.

On the Air Force side, Gratteri said about 40 to 50 airmen with the Delaware Air Guard’s 166th Civil Engineer Squadron and medevac group are slated to deploy to southwest Asia at the end of this month. 

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