BANGOR — Members of the Bangor-based 126th Army National Guard medevac unit — who are known as the “Black Bears” — will be leaving Maine for Kuwait in a couple of weeks, Capt. Shanon Cotta, spokesman for the Army National Guard, said Monday.
About 83 citizen soldiers have their deployment papers, he said. The unit’s sendoff ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts.
The men and women are trained in providing medical evacuation to injured patients using Blackhawk helicopters.
“This permits the rapid transport of seriously injured persons, particularly trauma patients, from the scene of an accident or battlefield,” Cotta said.
The Charlie Company unit commander is Maj. Mark Stevens, a 1987 Kennebunk High School graduate.
This will be the third overseas deployment to the Middle East for the Black Bears, Cotta said.
In 2003 and 2008, the unit provided medical air evacuation support in Iraq and Kuwait. In 2005, the soldiers mobilized to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief operations on the Gulf Coast, and in 1999 they deployed to Bosnia in support of NATO stability operations, participating in Operation Joint Forge, the captain said.
Once deployed, the 126th will more than double the number of Maine soldiers overseas in harm’s way, Cotta said.
“Currently, the Maine National Guard has 56 personnel deployed to Afghanistan and the Middle East, primarily from the 101st Air Refueling Wing and the 243rd Engineering and Installation Squadron,” the captain said.
The 101st — the MAINEiacs — are based in Bangor and the 243rd calls South Portland home.