Today I was looking for another story and realized I never posted a story I wrote in Iraq about my direct supervisor and MEDEVAC pilot, Brett Feddersen. At the time he was an intelligence officer, so I said I would wait till we got back to the states to post it. That should have been January 2010. So 6-1/2 years later, here is the story I wrote.
Major Brett Feddersen sits alone in the ready room next to the Medevac hangar at 11pm hunched over his personal computer editing a document for a meeting the next day. “I’ve got to get some sleep in case we get a 2am call,” he says mostly to the air. The rest of his crew is asleep or resting, waiting for the call.
Feddersen is a senior staff officer with 2-104th General Services Aviation Battalion, but two to four days every week he is a Medevac pilot on a 48-hour rotation with Alaska-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 52nd Aviation, an active Army unit attached to 2-104th for the current deployment. His shift will be over at 9am the following morning, but he had a long flight in the afternoon and a long day of meetings either side of the flight. “I have to stay balanced, I have to stay rested, I have to complete the mission,” he said.
It’s a challenge he faces both in civilian life and on deployment. Senior Trooper Feddersen has served with the Pennsylvania State Police since 1995, most recently flying Aviation Patrol Unit One in the southeastern area of the Commonwealth. Adding Medevac pilot to his staff duties makes life hectic, but Feddersen lives to fly. He arranges his life to complete the staff tasks to the best of his ability, making the time necessary to fly Medevac Blackhawks every week. He is serious and professional when discussing staff duties, but is all smiles and broad hand and arm gestures describing a favorite Medevac mission. Even crawling on top of the Blackhawk underneath the rotors for pre-flight checks before starting the engines, he is clearly enjoying himself whether under, at the controls, or on top of a Blackhawk helicopter.
Feddersen said flying Medevac in Iraq has many similarities with flying for his civilian job. “Flying for the state police is always on an emergency basis,” he said. “The mission can be a lost child, lost hikers or hunters, or a bad guy pursuit. We get the call. We go.”
Medevac is the same. On the first 24 hours of his 48 hours shift, Feddersen and his crew are “second up,” the backup team that goes if a call comes in and “first up” is already on a mission. During the first day, the crew must be ready to take off within a half hour and can travel a short distance from the ready hangar. On the second day the crew moves to “first up.” The Army standard said they must to fly within fifteen minutes of receipt of the Medevac call. In Charlie Company, the standard is eight minutes.
Whether at Ali Air Base or in Pennsylvania’s Twin Valley the emergency response mission gives Feddersen a real sense of accomplishment, “We make a difference here. When a soldier is down we do everything we can to get them care and get them home. At home we find the lost child, get the bad guy, it’s a great feeling.”
“One big difference here is we have to be more vigilant when landing at a point of injury,” Feddersen said. Scanning for mines, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and the enemy who just came in contact with an injured soldier are part of every mission in Iraq.
Feddersen will turn 37 on this deployment. He served as an enlisted military policeman for the first 5 of his 17 years of service and also attended college. He went to Officer Candidate School in 1997 followed by Army Aviation School. Feddersen is married and the father of two boys. His current deployment is his second. He was deployed to the Balkans with the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2005.