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Army Medevac Teams Fight For Afghan Hearts, Minds
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Army Medevac Teams Fight For Afghan Hearts, Minds
Army Medevac Teams Fight For Afghan Hearts, Minds
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In this last part of the hour, we're going to hear about the experience of war from the perspective of soldiers with specialized skills.

In a moment, a new film about the Green Berets. First, an Army medical evacuation team.

In October, NPR photographer David Gilkey spent time with a team in southern Afghanistan. That's a Taliban stronghold and an area where President Obama plans to send an influx of troops. It's been the center for the most violent and deadly clashes in recent months.

David Gilkey introduces us to these soldiers.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

DAVID GILKEY: This team of Army medevacs is known as Lucky Dustoff. Dustoff is a term used to describe helicopter medevacs. The nickname refers to a cloud of dust Blackhawk helicopters kick up when they take off or they land.

Mr. JIM DRAKE (Chief Warrant Officer; Medevac Helicopter Pilot): In all honesty, we're helping people. I love, you know, the fact that we always show up on somebody's worst day, probably.

GILKEY: Chief Warrant Officer Jim Drake is a rescue helicopter pilot with Lucky Dustoff. Drake's primary mission: rescue American soldiers injured in action. That's why his team flies with the 82nd Airborne Division, but they also evacuate the injured regardless of what side they're on.

Mr. DRAKE: We pick up the Taliban, you know? Somebody's shot them, they've been blown up. Heck, sometimes they've blown themselves up trying to build an IED. Yet, still, we'll come in. We'll pick this guy up. We'll fix him. What happens to him after that is beyond my scope.

GILKEY: Jim Drake's rescue Blackhawk is unarmed. He sees the role of medevacs as helping win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

Mr. DRAKE: Rather than just guys with guns who are here to, you know, kill and force them to bend to our will, we're here, we're helping these people. When we help local nationals, I think that does a lot for the whole clich�, the hearts and minds thing.

GILKEY: Jim Drake and the Lucky Dustoff crew have all chosen this mission, and this is why.

Mr. DRAKE: We build the soldiers' confidence because they know we'll come to get them. We build trust with the locals because they feel like we'll come to get them. The NATO partners, we build their strength, their appreciation of the United States because they know we'll come to get them. Bottom line is everybody out there knows the medevac will come and get them if they're hurt. If we can get through, we're getting through.

GILKEY: David Gilkey, NPR News.

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #2: (Unintelligible) tower has you right up there (unintelligible).

BLOCK: You can see the Lucky Dustoff crew in action at our Web site. David Gilkey flew with the team when they airlifted a severely injured Afghan girl to safety. There are photos of the rescue at our photo blog, The Picture Show. That's at

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