CHICAGO (CBS) — Family and friends gathered in a hangar at Midway International Airport on Thursday to send off members of an Illinois National Guard unit headed to Kuwait on a medical mission.
It is the first deployment for 25 soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the the 135th Aviation Regiment in Chicago. The unit was formed two years ago, and is led by Capt. Amanda Lempke, a registered nurse from Bloomington.
“Our mission is we provide air medical evacuations, so we’re basically providing urgent medical care to those troops that are wounded,” Lempke said.
The unit’s two Black Hawk helicopters served as the backdrop for a deployment ceremony at Midway on Thursday. The team of pilots, medics, mechanics, and others was headed for a 400-day mission to Kuwait, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – the official name for the war on terrorism.
The unit was formed two years ago, and has been training at Fort Hood, Texas, since getting their deployment orders about a year ago.
“I’m extremely excited. I’m a registered nurse civilian-side, and so when they said in 2013, ‘Hey, this medevac unit is going to stand up,’ I said ‘Hey, I’ll go be the commander if you’ll have me,’” Lempke said. “I’m so excited that this deployment came about, because we really are new, and we really want to get experience, and really perform this mission.”