FORT HOOD, Texas –
“Superb.” That was Sgt. Ashley Camper’s response when prompted to explain the quality of training she is receiving during her mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas. Camper is one of 26 Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Chesterfield-based Detachment 2, Company C, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment who are deploying for nine months as part of Kosovo Force 24, the 24th rotation of U.S. Soldiers to support the multinational peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
NATO has led a peace-support operation in Kosovo since June 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the area. According to NATO, KFOR currently consists of approximately 4,500 troops provided by 31 countries. Many of the multinational troops are operating in mountainous terrain and sometimes in harsh weather conditions.
The Soldiers of Detachment 2, Company C must be prepared to manage and perform aeromedical evacuation support operations for the multinational troops as well as responding to landmine and cluster munition casualties that are an enduring issue and concern as a result of the conflict between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s.
Detachment 2, Company C is partnered with elements from 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment from the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Lt. Col. James J. Lonchiadis, commander of 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation stated they will serve as the only United States aviation assets in Kosovo.
On Jan. 28, 2018, Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General- Army, Col. James W. Ring, Virginia Army National Guard Chief of Staff, and Command Sgt. Maj. Cheyenne M. Johnson, Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, visited the Soldiers and observed them performing collective 9-line medical evacuation training as they prepare for their deployment to Kosovo.
“It is very obvious Detachment 2, Company C, nested well with the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s medical aviation personnel and leaders,” stated Mercer. “I can tell that they embraced their upcoming mission and are working together well. I have received all positive responses to the quality of training the Soldiers are receiving.”
Senior leaders observed the Soldiers process a 9-line medical evacuation. Camper explained that during a 9-line medevac request, the aviation detachment will need the location of the landing zone for the helicopter, call sign of the unit, precedence of the request, special equipment required and number of patients by type. When a 9-line is activated, the aviation detachment calmly, yet swiftly, processes the report. Depending on the severity of the injury or injuries, those couple of minutes can make a difference in gaining access to medical care.
Upon completion of the collective training, Mercer presented coins to three Soldiers for exceptional performance in their military occupational skill. Soldiers who received coins included Spc. Dustin A. Hoffman-Wootten, a helicopter repairer who serves as a Richmond-based mechanic for HeloAir, Sgt. James P. Wheeler, a critical care flight paramedic who serves as a fireman and emergency medical professional, and Sgt. Lisa M. Ames, aviation operations specialist who serves as a pediatric operating room nurse.
Mercer used the coin presentation as an opportunity to thank all of the Soldiers for being ready to meet mission requirements when they were called to do so. As for Sgt. Camper, Mercer stated that she serves as a perfect example of many of our Virginia National Guard citizen Soldiers. She is not only answering the call when her country needs her but she also serves in her community. She is making our Army proud, our National Guard proud, and the commonwealth of Virginia proud.
Camper married her husband just two weeks prior to her mobilization. She and the other Soldiers are currently training at Fort Hood, Texas, before heading overseas to begin their rotation. But when asked how she felt about this deployment, she did not hesitate to explain her excitement for the upcoming mission and that she had the full support of her new husband who she exclaimed supports our military and supports her.
Camper is a 2011 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute where she majored in biology. A 30native of Richmond, Virginia, Camper serves as a cardiovascular nurse at the Richmond-based Southside Regional Medical Center.
Camper enlisted in the Virginia National Guard because she wanted to serve as an Army flight medic. When prompted about her future plans in the Virginia National Guard, she shared that she has intentions to commission as a flight nurse after she completes her master’s degree. Due to her anticipation of earning the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill, Camper began her application to Western Governors University to complete her masters of science in nursing.
“I am excited to deploy to Kosovo because aviation medicine is different from anything I can experience and learn in the hospital,” Camper explained. “From a patient’s perspective, it is one thing to be injured or ill and needing an ambulance and its quite another thing when you are in a remote location and you need medical evacuation support with a helicopter responding. And I can be the medical professional, making a difference and assisting with medical evacuation in that helicopter.”