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"Sometimes I can have a soldier in the hands of a surgeon within 30 minutes of his being injured." (Audio Interview, 40:10)

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   Drew David Larson
Image of Drew David Larson
Drew Larson, Al Qaim, Iraq 2006
War: Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, 2001-present
Branch: Army
Unit: 82nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance)
Service Location: Woodstock and Chicago, Illinois; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; Heidelberg, Germany; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Riley, Kansas; Iraq
Rank: Captain
Place of Birth: IL
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Flying medical evacuation missions during two tours of duty in Iraq, Drew Larson came to understand how speed does not kill, but it saves lives. Responding to a call and being in the air within ten minutes is where the process started. Larson cannot recall a wounded soldier dying before he and his crew delivered the patient for treatment, though he does reveal what term the Marines use to refer to a comrade who loses the final battle before he or she can be evacuated.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview  (76 min.)
Download: audio
»Photo Album (6 photos)
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»Helicopters: The Multi-Mission Aircraft
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Decision to become an officer while he was still in school; got into ROTC and the National Guard; enjoying the security that the military offers; reflecting on the pride he takes in what he does in the military. (04:59) Switching from Adjutant General administrative duties to flight training in medical services while stationed in Germany; assigned to 82nd Medical Company Air Ambulance; shipping out to Iraq for his first tour in October 2004. (02:17) Flight training in helicopters and Blackhawks specifically; knowing he was going to Iraq changed the way hew viewed flight school; paying closer attention to the Vietnam veterans who were his teachers. (02:16)
Hooking up with his unit in Iraq by getting on a plane with a sergeant from his company, along with another unit; persisting in finding out where his company was and getting on connecting flights, he finally made it. (03:50) Difference in Medical Evacuation missions from those flown by other helicopters: the spontaneity; working for the Marines; how it's decided where the patient should be taken; prepping for the flight and in the air within ten minutes of the call. (03:16) How chain of command works on the helicopter; he outranks his pilot, but the pilot runs things once they board; working as a team and knowing each other's style; their speed contrasted with Vietnam, where it could take hours for a medevac to show up; helping to get one seriously wounded soldier on his way to a Houston burn center within 48 hours of the first call. (06:10)
Having a gut feeling about not flying on certain days; adrenalin blocks out fear or second-guessing; didn't like flying over Baghdad with so many windows available to a sniper, plus too many other aircraft; Blackhawks' toughness at taking fire and not going down. (02:19) Does have medical training, but his job is to fly the aircraft; crew chief and medic get out and bring patient aboard; one day he did help load mass casualties. (03:08) Marine protocol in referring to their dead as "angels;" when they work with Marines, they never refer to a dead person aboard; they are always an "angel." (01:10)
Honored that civilians are grateful to him for his service; admitting to a little guilt when he hears Vietnam vets talk about their reception when they came home. (02:17)  
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  October 26, 2011
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