421st Medical Evacuation Battalion history and accolades.
Many units in the United States Army Medical Department (AMEDD) have distinguished themselves in the long and storied tradition of Army medicine. Each of these organizations has routinely excelled at the challenges of supporting the fighting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in theaters throughout the world. Whether in garrison or while deployed, these distinguished units embodied the AMEDD's motto "To conserve fighting strength." Over the 70 years since it was first activated in 1933, the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion has proven time and again that it is one of these elite AMEDD units.
The 421st was first constituted on 1 October 1933 in the Regular Army as Company C, 31st Medical Regiment and officially activated on 15 July 1942 at Camp Barkeley, Texas. In September 1943, more than a year later, the battalion was reorganized and redesignated as the 421st Collecting Company. The unit deployed to Europe in 1944 and participated in both the Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns in the European Theater of Operation (ETO). After the end of the Second World War, the company was part of the larger restructuring of the AMEDD in Europe, and associated with this restructuring, it was reorganized and redesignated as the 421st Medical Collecting Company on 19 July 1945. (1)
The 421st's World War II role as a collecting company was to serve as the unit geographically located between the forward battalion aid stations and the clearing companies with the mission of regulating patients to the evacuation hospitals. This "middle ground" was described in a contemporary World War II official history as follows. "Leaving the aid station, wounded were transported by ambulance to collecting and clearing stations where they were tagged for urgent treatment or travel priority. Ambulances were in operation continuously. Much of the work was done at night and some drivers crawled along bomb-pocked roads following the glow of a cigarette cupped in the hand of an assistant driver walking ahead." (2)
For its service in this role during the Second World War, the 421st received campaign credit for both the Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns. Additionally, the unit received the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for its service during the war in Europe. (3)
On 27 July 1950, the unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 421st Medical Company (Collecting Company Separate). After this redesignation, the unit still continued to operate as a collecting company between the battalion aid stations and the clearing company. With the advent of aeromedical evacuation during the Korean War, the primary method of transportation from the 421st to the evacuation hospitals transitioned from ground ambulance to helicopter. The medical helicopter units evacuated wounded from the collection companies to the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). (4) For its service in Korea, the 421st was awarded campaign credit in every campaign from the UN Offensive to the Third Korean Winter, a total of 8 separate campaigns during this conflict. The Republic of Korea (ROK) also recognized the company's selfless service with the award of the ROK Presidential Unit Citation. After 3 long years of service in Korea, the unit was inactivated on 1 April 1953.
Early in the Vietnam conflict, the unit was redesignated as the 421st Medical Company and was subsequently re-activated during August 1961 in Germany. It was established as a Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) air ambulance company with the mission of providing Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) support for the North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO) forces in Germany. The company model established by the 421st was later adopted by units in Vietnam when the organization of MEDEVAC transitioned from detachments to companies as described in the official history of DUSTOFF in Vietnam. "The company organization for air ambulances was unprecedented in Vietnam. The only other experience of an air ambulance company the 498th could draw on was that of the 421st Medical Company in Europe, which had its platoons, each consisting of six ships, scattered at four bases." The 498th eventually followed and adopted the model set by the 421st. (6)
In 1977, the 421st Medical Company was designated as the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion (MEB). The concept for the 421st to serve as a Medical Evacuation Battalion was developed by MG Winkler (who later became The Surgeon General of the Army) and approved by Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army General Max Thurman. The goal was to create a battalion that combined both ground and air evacuation capabilities under a single command and control element.
The battalion was thus formally activated as the 421st MEB on 30 October 1987 at Nellingen Barracks, near Stuttgart, Germany. While the 421st MEB was the first to test the evacuation battalion concept approved by General Thurman, the 52nd Medical Battalion (Evacuation) in Korea was officially designated an evacuation battalion in 1985, 2 years prior to the formal activation of the 421st MEB. (7) The formal designation of these units was Medical Battalion (Evacuation) but for the 421st MEB, the early concept name stuck. It has been known in Europe as a Medical Evacuation Battalion since its inception. Upon activation as a battalion, the 421st adopted the former company motto of "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime," which is prominently inscribed on the units Distinctive Unit Insignia.
The headquarters detachment and each individual unit assigned to the 421st have contributed to the distinguished history of the battalion. Subordinate elements of the battalion deployed to both Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/ Storm and to Somalia for Operation Provide Comfort. (The deployment to Saudi Arabia conducted by one of the subordinate companies, the 45th, is still the longest helicopter self-deployment in US Army history.) (8) The 421st MEB Headquarters and several companies also deployed in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. For its participation in the Implementation Force (IFOR) from 15 October 1995 to (9) November 1996 as part of the NATO's deployment to Bosnia in support of the Dayton Peace Accords, the 421st MEB earned the Army Superior Unit Award. (9) Eventually, every subordinate element of the battalion would serve in IFOR, the Stabilization Force (SFOR) or the Kosovo Force (KFOR). Since 9/11, the battalion has continued to provide evacuation support to conserve the fighting strength. In the ongoing Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), every element of the battalion has been deployed to either OIF or OEF and in some cases, both.
A complete delineation of the campaigns creditable to the battalion and its subordinate units appears in Table 1. Tables 2 and 3 delineate the recent leadership beginning with the battalion's reactivation in Germany in 1961 (commanders and command sergeants major) responsible for executing the assigned missions.
A discussion of the battalion's lineage is not complete without a cursory look at the history of its traditional subordinate units, the companies that have been habitually assigned to the 421st MEB for the past 2 decades. Short histories of the most recent subordinate companies follow:
(1) The 45th Medical Company was constituted 20 August 1943 as the 45th Veterinary Company. Activated 16 July 1944 in Naples, Italy, it was inactivated less than 2 years later on 4 February 1946 in Germany. During the Korean War, the company was activated on 9 August 1951, but, within a year, it was deactivated at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, never having seen service in Korea. During the Vietnam War, the company was redesignated on 10 May 1960 as the 45th Medical Company and activated on 6 June 1960 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Subsequently, the company was redesignated on 31 July 1961 as the 45th Medical Collecting Company (Separate) and allotted to the Regular Army. During the Vietnam War, the 45th saw service as one of the growing numbers of MEDEVAC units in Vietnam. At the end of the war, the company was once again inactivated on 30 April 1971 in Vietnam. With the birth of the 421st MEB, the 45th was reactivated as a Medical Company (Air Ambulance) on 16 October 1988 in Germany and assigned to the battalion. With the transformation of Army Aviation, the 45th was reassigned to the 4th Aviation Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in July 2005. (10)
(2) The 159th Medical Company was constituted 7 October 1944 as the 159th Medical Service Detachment. Activated 22 November 1944 in France, it was inactivated after 1 year of service on 12 November 1945. For the Korean War, the 159th was redesignated on 27 September 1951 as the 159th Maxillo-Facial Detachment. It served in Korea from 15 November 1951 until the end of the war, inactivating on 24 January 1953. Reborn as a MEDEVAC unit on 18 October 1963, the 159th Medical Detachment was activated on 24 December 1963 at Fort Riley, Kansas. The 159th served with distinction in the Republic of Vietnam from 1968 to 1971 as a DUSTOFF unit and continued to serve as a MEDEVAC detachment in the United States and Germany throughout the next 2 decades. Like the 45th, it also was reorganized with the birth of the 421st MEB, transitioning from the 159th Medical Detachment to the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance). On 30 October 1987, it was assigned to the 421st. With the transformation of Army Aviation, the 159th was reassigned to the 1st Battalion of the 214th Aviation Regiment in Germany in July 2005. (11)
(3) The 236th Medical Detachment was activated as a MEDEVAC Detachment on 1 July 1968 in Fort Polk, Louisiana. (Notably, the 236th has always been a MEDEVAC unit throughout its history.) The unit was deployed to Vietnam on 26 November 1968. With the drawdown in Vietnam, the 236th was relocated to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on 30 March 1972 and further relocated to Augsburg, Germany, in March 1973. Upon arrival in Augsburg on 28 March 1973, the unit was assigned to the 421st Medical Company located in Nelligen. On 15 October 1989, the 236th was deactivated as a detachment then reactivated as a company by combining elements of the 63rd, 15th, and 236th Medical Detachments to form the 236th Medical Company (Air Ambulance). It was the last MEDEVAC company to be assigned to the 421st MEB. The company's rear detachment is currently still assigned to the 421st while the main company is deployed to OIF and OEF. (12)
(4) The 557th Medical Company was designated as the 557th Medical Ambulance Company (Motor) on 31 July 1943 in the Central Pacific area. The unit has always been a ground ambulance company. On 30 November 1945 (after the end of WWII), the unit was inactivated. It was again activated on 7 August 1951 at Camp Pickett, Virginia, and ultimately shipped aboard the USNS General Darby to Europe. On 20 November 1960, the 557th Medical Company (AMB) was assigned to the 34th Medical Battalion of the 31st Medical Group. In October 1978, the unit was then reassigned to the 68th Medical Group which was a sub-unit of the 3rd Support Command. In 1984, the company was moved to its current home on Wiesbaden Airbase, and in 1987, the 557th was the first subordinate element to become part of the 421st MEB under the evacuation battalion concept. It is still assigned to the battalion today. (13)
The Soldiers of the 421st MEB have always been, and will continue to be, the unit's greatest strength. The campaign streamers and unit awards are visible testaments to the will, resolve and strength of the Soldiers past and present. In addition to these accolades, the unit received many additional noteworthy awards. First and foremost, the unit has earned the Lieutenant General Ellis D. Parker Award as the Army's Best Aviation Battalion in the Combat Service Support Category multiple times. The Parker Award is a Department of the Army level award that recognizes demonstrated and sustained excellence in the areas of leadership, training, maintenance and safety over the course of the full year. The competition is open to all active duty, National Guard, and reserve component Aviation Battalions. The Soldiers of the 421st MEB have earned this distinction as Best Aviation Battalion in the Army eight out of the last 12 years (1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2004) a feat unmatched by any other aviation battalion in the US Army. The 421st MEB also competed in and won the US Army Europe (USAREUR) Supply of Excellence award 3 consecutive years, in 2002, 2003, and 2004. In 2002, the 421st MEB won the Army level Supply of Excellence Award. The unit was recognized in 1995 by PM Utility Helicopter, Department of the Army, for the best Operational Readiness level in the entire Army for the Blackhawk helicopter. The Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) recognized the battalion or its subordinate unit 5 times as Aviation Unit of the Year (1979, 1988, 1989, and 1993). (14) The 421st MEB was also recognized at the Army level for safety achievements, receiving six different Accident Prevention Awards of Excellence. These awards are only a small sample that demonstrate the dedication and spirit of the Soldiers who make up the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion, DUSTOFF Europe.
At the individual level, recent history in support of the Global War on Terror provides an insight into the type of Soldiers represented in the 421st MEB. Over the last 2 years, the battalion Soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have earned at least 1 Distinguished Flying Cross, 3 Soldiers Medals, 5 Bronze Stars, 163 Air Medals (11 with V Device), 131 Army Commendation Medals and more than 17 Combat Medic Badges. (15) These recent awards highlight the steadfast courage and ability of the Soldiers, both past and present, who have served in the battalion.
The 421st MEB today is a proud example of AMEDD Soldiers continuing the 70 year old legacy of the battalion providing support to their fellow troops. The Soldiers continue to support the fighting forces even in the midst of change and transformation. Whatever the future holds for the 421st MEB, the Soldiers of this proud organization will continue to carry on the battalion's tradition and conserve the fighting strength by providing care for "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime."
(1.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 421st Medical Battalion (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 27 August 1996).
(2.) Orientation Branch, Information and Education Division, ETOUSA, That Men Might Live!: The Story of the Medical Service--ETO (Paris: P. Dupont, 1945).
(3.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 421st Medical Battalion (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 27 August 1996).
(4.) Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medics' War (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 1990) 164.
(5.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 421st Medical Battalion (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 27 August 1996).
(6.) Dorland, Peter and James Nanney, DUST OFF: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 1982) 51.
(7.) Ginn, Richard V.N. The History of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 1997) 399.
(8.) Gehring, Stephen P. From the Fulda Gap to Kuwait (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History, 2002) 56.
(9.) Department of the Army, Memorandum Subject: Army Superior Unit Award for Task Force Eagle, (Washington, D.C. PERSCOM, 19 January 1999).
(10.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, 45th Medical Company (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History).
(11.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, 159th Medical Company (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History).
(12.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, 236th Medical Company (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History).
(13.) Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors, 557th Medical Company (Washington, D.C. Center for Military History).
(14.) Unit Records, Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany, as of August, 2005. Includes some awards to the 15th Medical Detachment and the 63rd Medical Detachment that were assigned to the 421st and eventually merged to become the 236th Medical Company under the battalion.
(13.) Battalion S-1 Records, Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany, as of August, 2005.
Major Andrew Risio is the Battalion S3 for the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Roupe is the Battalion XO for the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Lieutenant Colonel Larry Fulton is the Chief of Operations and Plans for the V Corps Surgeon in Heidelberg, Germany.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Goodman is the Deputy Commander for Administration at the Wurzberg Army Hospital in Wurzberg, Germany.
Campaign Participation Credit Table 1. Campaign Participation Credit for the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion and subordinate units. (Source: Each unit's Center for Military History, Lineage and Honors and recent unit history.) World War II Korean Conflict 421st Medical Company 421st Medical Company 45th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 557th Medical Company Desert Shield, Desert Storm 45th Medical Company Vietnam 236th Medical Company 45th Medical Company 159th Medical Detachment Joint Endeavor/Guard/Forge 236th Medical Detachment (IFOR/SFOR/KFOR) 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion Operation Provide Comfort 45th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 236th Medical Company Operation Restore Hope 557th Medical Company 45th Medical Company Operation Iraqi Freedom Operation Enduring Freedom 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion 45th Medical Company 45th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 159th Medical Company 236th Medical Company 236th Medical Company 557th Medical Company 421st Medical Company Commanders 1961-1987 Table 2. Company Commanders from activation in Germany until designation as a Medical Batallion. (Source: 421st Medical Company Unit History.) 1961-1962 LTC Pfeiffer 1973-1974 LTC Carroll 1963-1964 MAJ Jones 1974-1976 MAJ Lynch 1964-1966 LTC Schmidt 1976-1978 LTC Truscott 1966-1967 MAJ Insley 1978-1980 LTC Scofield 1967-1968 LTC Medford 1980-1982 LTC Berry 1968-1969 MAJ Sandifer 1982-1984 LTC Kinsely 1969-1970 MAJ Colbert 1984-1986 LTC Stahl 1970-1971 MAJ Norris 1986-1988 LTC Snyder 1971-1973 LTC Salmon 421ST Medical Evacuation Battalion Commanders and CSMs 1988 to Present Table 3. Battalion Commanders and CSMs from Designation as a Medical Battalion until Present. (Source: 421st Medical Battalion Unit History.) 1988-1990 LTC Hapner 1988-1990 CSM Scott 1990-1992 LTC Keith 1990-1992 CSM Williams 1992-1994 LTC Davis 1992-1996 CSM McCloud 1994-1996 LTC West 1996-1999 CSM Hogue 1996-1998 LTC Crook 1999-2002 CSM Burke 1998-2000 LTC Akins 2002-2004 CSM Jeffers 2000-2002 LTC Doyle 2004-2005 CSM English 2002-2004 LTC Sargent 2005-Present CSM Velarde 2004-Present LTC Campbell
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|Author:||Risio, Andrew; Roupe, Lee; Fulton, Larry; Goodman, Robert|
|Publication:||U.S. Army Medical Department Journal|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2005|
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