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Special unit marks milestone

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Zadalis
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Commander
The 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, even as the Air Force recognizes its 60th. 

Members of the 43rd AES are justifiably proud of their unit, its history and accomplishments, just as we are proud to have them as teammates. It is the only active duty aeromedical evacuation unit capable of deploying an entire Theater Aeromedical Evacuation System in the Air Force, and has a well-deserved reputation for being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and personnel to get the job done - and that job is saving lives. 

Since their activation as the 1st Aeromedical Evacuation Group in March 1957 in South Carolina, and their move to Pope in June 1957, the list of conflicts and humanitarian relief efforts the squadron has been involved in is extensive: the Dominican Republic in 1965; Grenada in 1983; Panama in 1989 and 1990; Saudi Arabia in 1990 and 1991, and then again in 1994; Somalia in 1992 and 1993; Haiti in 1994; Kenya in 1995; Bosnia in 1995; and Albania in 1999. Members of the 43rd AES were the first aeromedical forces to deploy in support of operations in Afghanistan, were with both the Marines and Army as they drove toward Baghdad, and are still supporting operations in both of those countries today. When Maj. Gen. Melissa Rank, the Assistant Air Force Surgeon General, visited Pope recently, she said that 97 percent of all those wounded during the Global War on Terror survived their injuries because of the outstanding care they receive from medical personnel - and the 43rd AES can claim a large portion of the credit for that statistic and, more importantly, the lives those numbers represent! 

Congratulations to Col. Judith Schaffer and all the members of the 43rd AES, and best wishes for another 50 years of outstanding service to our nation. 

The Deployed Spouses Dinner sponsored by the Airman & Family Readiness Center was held last week. It was a wonderful evening and provided an excellent opportunity to show our appreciation for those who keep the home fires burning while those of us who wear the uniform head to deployed locations from 120 days to a year at a time. We have people heading out for AEF 7/8 right now, and AEF 9/10 will be a big one for Team Pope. It's up to all of us to make sure our families are aware of the programs on base available to ease the separation - things like Hearts Apart, Car Care Because We Care, and the officer and enlisted spouse groups. They support those who support us.
We're also celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month throughout May with a number of events including a luncheon May 17 at the Pope Club. From the Japanese-American Nisei Soldiers who fought valiantly during WW II, to the Asian Pacific Americans serving today, men and women of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have a proud history of service to our nation. Watch the Carolina Flyer for upcoming events. 

Recognition keeps coming for other members of Team Pope as well. We were just notified that Team Pope has been awarded the Air Force Association Citation of Honor. This award is presented by the AFA in recognition of the most outstanding contribution by an individual or organization to the development of aerospace power for the betterment of mankind. This is truly an honor, and one well deserved by all of you!
Congratulations also to Staff Sgt. Jason St. Peter of the 43rd AES for being selected for the Jolly Green Association Rescue Mission of the Year Award. The mission he is cited for saved the lives of eight wounded Soldiers in Afghanistan. 

The 101 Critical Days of Summer are fast approaching. We all need to practice risk management in everything we do, whether on the job or during recreational activities. I want to make sure we are all here at the end of those 101 days, and for many more after that. 

Remember to be SAFE, watch out for your WINGMAN, and never be THAT GUY!