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ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY OF THE MEDICAL DETACHMENT (HELICOPTER AMBULANCE)

The 571st Medical Detachment (RA) began its life as the 7452nd Army Unit (Army Hospital) at Fort Clayton on 15 February 1951. There it was reorganized and re-designated on 15 February 1953 as the 571st Medical Detachment (Dental Prosthetic, Fixed). It was inactivated in the Canal Zone on 10 April 1956. On 7 July 1967, the unit was re-designated as the 571st Medical Detachment (RA) and activated at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland under the command of Major Vince Cedola. The few assigned unit members began immediately to prepare for overseas movement. Before departure, five warrant officers attended the Essential Medical Aviator course at Fort Sam Houston. The 571st was alerted for overseas movement on 22 August 1967. Major Cedola had to deploy his newborn unit to Vietnam within 90 days. Calling on all of his prior experience, he went all out and became the scourge of the Fort Mead supply system to insure that his troops had as much as possible of the supplies and equipment needed in the combat zone. The unit consisting of 3-Commissioned Officers, 8-Warrant Officers, 2-NCO's, 3-Specialists and 13-PFC's shipped out to Vietnam with a severe shortage of experience in all job categories. The advance party departed on 13 November and the main body by air on 18 November 1967. The 571st was posted to Nha Trang where it was initially co-located with the 254th Medical Detachment. The unit aircraft arrived on 2 December and the equipment arrived on 25 December 1967. Upon arrival in country it was assigned to the 43rd Medical Group, 44th Medical Brigade. Training was accomplished at Nha Trang by integrating crews with crews from the 254th Medical Detachment and infusing six experienced pilots and several enlisted personnel from the 45th Medical Company. Although it logged over 500 hours of medical missions, the 571st was not declared fully operational until 2 January 1968 because of equipment shortages. When the 571st arrived in Vietnam, the other Dustoff units painted red crosses on a white square on the noses and doors of their helicopters. The 571st, in order to be distinctive and make the red crosses less of an aiming point, did not use a white square, but left only white borders around the red crosses. The unit was almost immediately swept up in the Tet Offensive beginning in late January. The 571st crews participated valiantly during the first Tet Offensive, flying untold hours and rescuing hundreds of victims of this new war. Based on this baptism by fire, Vince coined the unit's motto, "TO SAVE A LIFE" and designed the unit's first patch. The unit was reassigned to the Hue/PhuBai and 67th Medical Group, and became the only DUSTOFF unit operating under pure field conditions. Prior to the move north, the 571st provided temporary support to several areas. At one time it had aircraft and crews at Soc Trang with the 82nd Medical Detachment, at Qui Nhon with the 498th Medical Company, and at Nha Trang, Phu Bai and Quang Tri. In fact the unit's first informal motto was, "From the Delta to the DMZ." The 571st was co-located with the 22nd Surgical Hospital at Phu Bai Army Airfield from early 1968, and for several months lived in field conditions in tents and mud. Skillful negotiations and shrewd trading with Navy Seabees allowed the construction of a first class heliport and unit personnel constructed several metal-roofed tropical hootches. During the next few months the 571st primary missions were to provide extremely hazardous medical evacuation in the mountainous terrain around Phu Bai and into the Ashau Valley for the 101st Airborne Division, Army level evacuation support for the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and support to the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division, pioneering into the Vietnam DMZ. The unit also provided Evacuation from the 22nd Surgical Hospital at Phu Bai and from the 18th Surgical Hospital at Quang Tri as well as Area evacuation support for ARVN units and Vietnamese Civilians. Within its first month in I CTZ, five of six aircraft were replaced due to combat damage.

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The 571st participated in Operation Pegasus in early April to relieve the siege of Khe Sanh, and in Operation Delaware in support of the 101st Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st ARVN Division in their incursion into the A Shau Valley. Several unit members were wounded and aircraft damaged in dangerous extractions and hoist operations in the triple canopy jungle in the A Shau valley. The unit also supported Operations Carantan I and II around Hue and Operation Nevada Eagle to protect the rice harvests around HuePhu Bai. When not supporting specific operations, one-ship standbys were maintained at the 18th Surgical Hospital at the Quang Tri Combat Base, and Hill 63 (LZ Baldy) south of Da Nang in support of the Americal Division (after May 1968), as well as area coverage from Hue-Phu Bai. Then LTC Floyd Baker, MC, Provisional Corps Surgeon, wrote this about the 571st crew: "The combat soldier is aware of the fact that he will be rapidly evacuated if he is wounded and as result he goes a little farther and fights a little harder than he otherwise would. You have been an outstanding representative of the Army and of the Army Medical Service in this unique jointly manned combat area. Your example has helped stimulate some Navy and Marine Corps personnel to consider similar methods of helicopter evacuation." The 571st crews were called upon day and night to provide numerous flights to the Hospital Ships "Sanctuary," and, "Repose," anchored off the coast of northern South Vietnam in the South China Sea. Flights originated at Phu Bai, Quang -In and field locations. During the first nine months of 1968, the unit performed over 650 missions, transporting over 1500 patients to the hospital ships. The Navy honored the Detachment for making the 5000th accident free landing on the "Sanctuary," and the 7000th and 8000th accident free landings on the "Repose." Then Navy Captain Willard Arentzen, MC, Sanctuary Hospital Commander, who later became the Navy Surgeon General, once told Vince that he and his crews had earned the respect, praise, and admiration of the men and women of the U.S. Navy by exceeding their motto-- "To Save a Life." The 50th Medical Detachment moved to the former Marine Combat Base at Gia Le near Phu Bai in May 1968. In order to equitably distribute the workload between the two Detachments, one unit supported the 101st Airborne Division while the other unit covered the hospitals and standbys. They rotated every two weeks. After the 50th Medical Detachment became the Air Ambulance Platoon of the 101st Airborne Division when it was reorganized as an airmobile division on 1 July 1968, the 571st reverted to its prior coverage except for the 101st Division. During the first nine months of 1968, the unit evacuated over 12,100 patients. In July 1969, the 54th Medical Detachment became a provisional evacuation battalion, exercising control over all non-divisional evacuation assets in northern South Vietnam, including the 571st. On 15 February 1970, the 571st was placed under the control of the 61st Medical Battalion, which was located at Qui Nhon. At that time the 571st had the 236th and 237th Medical Detachments under it as a detachment "group." As a result of the control structure, crews were often comprised of personnel from different units. On 20 May 1970, the 237th Medical Detachment moved from Quang Tri Combat Base to Hue-Phu Bai. As the senior Detachment, the 571st assumed command of the 237th, but they quickly integrated and operated as a single combined unit. The 571st and the 237th Medical Detachment under it were deeply involved in the Laotian Operations, Dewey Canyon II (US operations) and Lam Son 719 (ARVN operations) from 5 February to 6 April 1971. The combined detachments provided direct support for the ARVN troops in Laos and backup for Eagle Dustoff of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). The 1st Brigade Task force of the "5th Infantry Division established a medical clearing company near the old Khe Sanh airfield near the Laotian border and the Detachments field sited two aircraft there between 30 January and 5 February; 1971. Two additional aircraft were sited at the 22ndSurgical Hospital at Quang Tri Combat Base to cover the area north to the DMZ and west to FSB Vandegrift. Operation Lam Son 719 began on 5 February and two additional aircraft were sited at Khe Sanh. One or two aircraft remained at Hue-Phu Bai for area support. On 8 March the two detachments were placed under operational control of Eagle Dustoff. The ferocity of NVA ground fire required all single ship missions to be coordinated with gunships and Air Force ground preparation to soften up resistance. As the operation drew to an

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end, the Dustoff crews had to contend with demoralized ARVN troops trying to crowd onto the medevac helicopters. During the operations, the combined Detachments evacuated 3829 patients and suffered six KIA and nine WIA in addition to much aircraft damage. The 571st moved to Camp Haskins-at Da Nang on 26 June 1971. It was one of the last five Dustoff detachments remaining in Vietnam after early 1972. The 571st started the stand down process by turning over some of its equipment to the ARVN on 15 November 1972, a process it completed by 19 January 1973. Alert crews were maintained at Da Nang Air Force Base and at Camp Eagle, southwest of Hue. The field site at Camp Eagle was closed on 3 February 1973. By 18 February the 571st was at half strength and it ceased operations and departed Vietnam on 1 March 1973. The 571st lost the following members in Vietnam: WOl Gary W Doolittle was killed on 18 October 1968 along with the other crew members who were from the 54th Medical Detachment when their aircraft crashed and burned after being hit by enemy fire during takeoff from a pickup site. SP4 Thomas R. Weiss, crew chief, was killed on 20 October 1970, while on a mission with a crew from the 54th and 68th Medical Detachments. His aircraft collided with a light observation helicopter killing all on board both helicopters. SP5 Russell G. Ahrens, crew chief, was killed on a flight into Laos during Lam Son 719 on 18 March 1971 when he was hit by .51 caliber antiaircraft fire. The 571st stood down in Vietnam on 1 March 1973 and was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado and the 4th Infantry Division (Mech.). It replaced the 78th Medical Detachment (RA), which was inactivated. Authorized strength was 4 officers, 10 warrant officer pilots and 20 enlisted personnel. Fort Carson had been one of the five original test sites for the MAST program and the 571st took over the MAST pilot program. MAST coverage was provided for Colorado and adjoining states. Paramedic training for the flight medics was provided at Swedish Medical Center in Denver. It provided support for Fort Carson and the Pinion Canyon Maneuver Area and the 4th Infantry Division (Mech.), and the Air Force Academy. It had six UH-l V helicopters. Many of its missions were high altitude missions in the nearby Rocky Mountains. On one mission in August 1977, an injured climber was evacuated from just below the summit of Mount Evans, a 12,000-foot peak, in poor weather. The medic and crew chief that had to climb up very rough terrain to retrieve the climber and carry him to the aircraft were awarded Soldiers Medals for the evacuation, and the aircraft commander, CPT Lauren Aspinall, was awarded the Air Medal. The unit provided significant emergency support during the Big Thompson Flood in 1976 near Loveland Colorado. The 571st deployed crews to Honduras from June through October 1985, February through July 1987, August 1988 through January 1989, August 1990 through January 1991, March through June 1991, and September 1991. During the March-June deployment to Honduras, two flight crews' were deployed and worked with crews from the 54th Medical Detachment from Fort Lewis, Washington, which were replaced with flight crews from the 126th Medical Company, California Army National Guard. On 12 May 1991, helicopter from the 126th Medical Company crashed killing the three members from the 126th. The crew chief, SPC William Jarrell, of the 571st was the fourth member of the crew and survived the crash. The 571st also supported NASA Shuttle operations at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico in February through March 1990 and has supported training exercises at Camp Grayling, Michigan in 1986,1988,1989 and 1992 and Camp Atterbury, Indiana in 1993. The 571st supported the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas in June 1991 and February 1993. It also supported JTF-6 Counter drug missions in New Mexico in 1994 and other dates. Since 1993, it has maintained a permanent TDY station at Fort Bliss, Texas after the departure of the Second Platoon of the 507th Medical Company (AA).

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In January 1993, the unit was reorganized into a company with 15 UH-1V helicopters. During mid-1995 the unit transitioned to UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. It supported Operation Bright Star in Egypt and training exercises at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1994. In September-December 1995 it supported Fort Sam Houston, Texas while the 507th Medical Company (AA) was in Egypt for Bright Star 1995. With the move of the 3rd Armored Cavalry to Fort Carson in 1996, the 571st is now under its control. The 571st received campaign credit for Vietnam Counteroffensive, Phase III, Tet Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive, Phase IV, Counteroffensive, Phase V, Counteroffensive, Phase VI, Tet 69/Counteroffensive, Summer-fall 1969, Winter-Spring 1970, Sanctuary Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive, Phase VII, Consolidation I, Consolidation II, Ceasefire. It was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation for Vietnam 1967-68 and was recommended for a Valorous Unit Award for its work in Operation Delaware 1968, but it was never issued.

THERE IS MORE UNIT HISTORY OUT THERE, WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO FIND AND FILL THE AREAS THAT ARE MISSING. WE WILL ALSO BE EXTENDING THE UNIT HISTORY TO PRESENT DAY. IF YOU CAN HELP ­ SEND US THE FACTS AND LOOK FOR THIS DOCUMENT TO GROW IN LENGTH AND ACCURACY.

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