A helicopter ambulance unit from the Army Reserve in Salt Lake City was put on active duty Thursday and is expected to leave Utah sometime next week.
The unit includes 14 helicopter pilots and a number of medics who hold civilian jobs as paramedics or emergency medical technicians. Officers from the 96th Army Reserve Command, or ARCOM, at Fort Douglas said Wednesday they don't know all of the members' civilian occupations, but they know at least one of the pilots flies for the Air Med helicopter ambulance service.ARCOM spokesman Maj. Bill Auer also speculated publicly for the first time that additional reserve units from Utah will be called to participate in Operation Desert Shield.
Members of the group of about 50 reservists from the 321st Medical Detachment began getting signals over the weekend that they should be ready for a call-up. The official calls to 180 days of active duty were made Wednesday, the same day the 96th ARCOM at Fort Douglas publicly announced the activation. Nine units have been activated so far in the 96th ARCOM, which covers seven states: Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. The activation is the second from the Army Reserve in Utah since the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf began.
The medical evacuation unit's ultimate destination has not been announced, and a specific date when the group will leave its home base at the Salt Lake International Airport for its mobilization station at Fort Carson, Colo., is not known, Auer said.
Evacuation teams from the 321st fly Vietnam War-vintage UH-1V "Huey" aircraft. Lt. Col. Tony Cox said crews will fly the 14 helicopters to the mobilization station at Fort Carson. From there, the air ambulances will likely be shipped or flown inside cargo planes to their ultimate destination.
Cox said the 1967-vintage Hueys have seen a lot of flying time but are unsophisticated enough to be very reliable.