YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – Soldiers assigned to the United States Army Air Ambulance Detachment- Yakima (USAAAD), 2-158 Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade performed an aeromedical evacuation of two civilians near Mount Adams, Wash. on Dec. 13, 2022.
The mission started when the two snowmobilers were able to call 911 and reach the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office, who reached out to the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. After determining that ground rescue would take 5-6 hours, federal support was requested through the Washington State Emergency Operations Center for a high-powered helicopter with hoist capability to recover the stranded civilians.
At 9:31 p.m. a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for Mount Adams, arriving 27 minutes later near the south slope of the mountain.
“Fortunately, the weather was pretty good, and we had a high cloud ceiling to work with,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffery Bear, the pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patients’ reported location, we could not find a suitable place to land the aircraft, so we deployed our flight paramedic by hoisting him approximately 210 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”
The aircrew remained in the air above the Mount Adams Wilderness while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patients and prepared them for transport.
“The patients were at serious risk for hypothermia if they had stayed out and attempted to self-recover or wait for ground rescue,” Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD commander, said. “Staff Sgt. Brendan Silkey, our flight medic during this mission, acted decisively to ensure the patients were receiving the best possible care through the entire rescue.”
To mitigate the impacts of blowing snow, the aircrew decided to conduct a 150-foot hoist to extract the patients, one showing flu-like symptoms and the other in need of an asthma inhaler, and then transported them to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital where they were released early the next morning.
“Successful missions like this are a tribute to our relationships with the local civil authorities, and to our air ambulance crews that regularly train to maintain the necessary flight and medical skills for these kinds of operations,” DeGroat said.
The unit is based out of Yakima Training Center in central Washington. USAAAD operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide aeromedical evacuation support for thousands of service members training at Yakima Training Center each year.
Additionally, the detachment works with the Washington State Emergency Operations Center, local sheriff departments, and civilian volunteers to provide rescue coverage in south-central Washington’s remote wilderness areas.
The life-saving aeromedical evacuation is a collaborative effort. As a detachment with 33 personnel and four aircraft, every member of the team is vital to USAAAD.
The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade operates two aeromedical evacuation units that provide defense support to civil authorities: Yakima Dustoff in central Washington and Arctic Dustoff in central Alaska.
This piece is written by Capt. Kyle Abraham from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. Want to feature your story? Reach out to us at [email protected]
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