An injured hiker is safe after a Washington Army National Guard medical flight crew from 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation hoisted them out of a heavily wooded area near Leavenworth on Oct. 15th, 2022.

“The hiker suffered a fall approximately five miles from the nearest trailhead, sustained a chest injury, and was unable to self-extract,” said Maj. Kevin Robillard, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation. “Our crew immediately loaded up and departed in response.”

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ryan Kennedy, the pilot-in-command, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marty Hayes, assisted by Staff Sgt. Travis Bearden, Sgt. Ty Thompson, Spc. Nicholas Ehrenheim, and Maj. Danny Jones scrambled and launched their Black Hawk helicopter in less than an hours’ time, enroute to the scene.

Upon arriving and observing the signaling device being used to hail the aircraft, Bearden and Thompson were hoisted to the ground to assess the individual’s injuries before securing him for extraction.

Many trails in the Cascade Mountains are in dense forests or along step terrain. To perform the mission safely the aircraft was forced to maintain a solid hover more than 120 feet from the ground to avoid the tall trees around the site. The patient was safely loaded and transported to a nearby waiting ambulance and local authorities.

“The successful execution of this rescue hoist mission further demonstrates the capabilities and exceptional readiness of our Washington Army National Guard aircrews,” said Robillard.

This type of mission isn’t new to the Washington Army National Guard. In August 2020, a Black Hawk helicopter crew rescued three people injured following a rockslide in hilly terrain just south of Mount Rainier. In July 2015, another Black Hawk crew rescued three isolated hikers in the area of Rimrock Lake near Yakima. In March 2014, following the devastating State Route 530 Landslide in Oso, the Washington National Guard started a search and rescue-focused training in collaboration with Snohomish County.

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This piece is written by Joseph Siemandel from the Joint Force Headquarters – Washington National Guard. Want to feature your story? Reach out to us at [email protected]