AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- The sound of a ringing bell means one thing to the corpsmen of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) causality evacuation team - someone is hurt and they are going to save them.
These highly trained 'devil docs' stand ready with the Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 to respond to calls from throughout the Al Anbar province.
Serving as the only dedicated CASEVAC team in the area of operations, the corpsmen and aircrew fly into the face of danger everyday to bring wounded Marines, soldiers and civilians from the battle field to safety.
"Casualties are a part of war," said Chief Petty Officer Leonard F. Miller, CASEVAC chief and native of Cleveland. "However, our corpsmen are extremely well trained and working each day to minimize the extents of those injuries. They are saving lives."
The CASEVAC team works around the clock in 12-hour shifts, with two-man teams assigned to different aircraft. When the call for a CASEVAC is sounded, the corpsmen rush out to the birds and take to the air with time as their biggest enemy.
"We train with the principle of the 'golden hour,' the time when most patients will die without stabilization," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy R. Moore, CASEVAC corpsman and native of Kinston, N.C. "We are always racing the clock, because we loose 15 to 30 minutes on the way to the point of injury. So when we get on the ground, we work as fast as we can to fight shock and fluid loss to stabilize the patient."
One of the keys to their success lies in the strong bond the corpsmen develop with their partners.
"When you are with the same person everyday, you learn how to work with them," Moore said. "You start thinking the same, and before long there are no gaps in your action, because you can anticipate your partners next move."
The corpsmen of the 2nd MEF(Fwd.) CASEVAC team began their preparation for their important mission long before stepping foot in country. Attending the CASEVAC, operational emergency medical skills and Army flight medic schools, the devil docs are highly skilled and proficient in their daily tasks.
"This is the best prepared CASEVAC team that has come out here," Miller said. "They hit the ground running and started doing their job with very little turn over. Training is continuous, even out here, so they are always on top of their game. They are the best corpsmen I've ever had."
Humble, in light of the importance and magnitude of their mission, the team is full of men and women who just want to do their part.
"You get a great sense of pride knowing that you helped to save someone's life," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis J. Hess, CASEVAC corpsman and native of Henniker, N.H. "Ever since I went into field medicine, I've wanted to be doing this.
"This is the primary function of a corpsman, risking your life to save to save another's," Moore said.
Since their arrival here two months ago, the team has answered over 40 calls from across the spectrum of injuries and patients. The corpsmen don't discriminate against patients, flying in to treat Marines, soldiers, civilians and even enemy prisoners of war.
"You don't think about the fact that you are treating a guy who was shooting at you a few moments earlier," Hess said. "You treat everyone the same, provide the same care regardless of their status or service."
With the proud corpsmen of the 2nd MEF (Fwd) casualty evacuation team standing ready, the servicemembers on the ground fighting to secure peace and stability for the people of Iraq can rest just a tad bit more, knowing that help is only a bell ring away.
None of the corpsman want see Marines and soldiers get hurt, but according to Miller, they know the importance of doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
"The CASEVAC mission gives unit commanders the confidence to carry out their mission," Miller said. "In the back of their minds they know their Marines are going to be taken care of immediately with a dedicated CASEVAC team."