MEDEVAC crews fit into tight spaces
August 28, 2012
U.S. Army Soldiers are great at what they do, but they don't always make it through the mission without injury or Mother Nature getting in their way.
To aid their injured battle buddies, the Medevac aviation crews with the Company C "Eagle Dustoff," 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, attached to Task Force Wings, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, prepare for those unfortunate circumstances by combat hoist training operations.
"A combat hoist is generally used for picking up people that are stuck somewhere we cannot fit an aircraft," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kraft, a UH-60A Blackhawk pilot for Eagle Dustoff.
"(For) a landing zone that has too many trees or any other situations Mother Nature throws at us, we have to use a hoist," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brendan Coleman, a UH-60A Blackhawk helicopter pilot for Eagle Dustoff.
Units must send a Medevac request in order to get the Soldier the help that is required to keep him or her alive. The request is known as a 9-line, as it gives Medevac crews nine pieces of information necessary for them to execute the rescue.
"If a Soldier's life is at stake or just need further medical assistance, someone from that unit will radio the 9-line to the appropriate personnel to receive assistance," said Staff Sgt. Kristopher Hale, a flight medic with Eagle Dustoff.
After the request is received, the helicopter deploys, en route to the personnel who need medical support.
"From the information given on the 9-line, we will know whether or not the hoist is needed," said Staff Sgt. Melvin Johnson, a UH-60A Blackhawk helicopter crew chief with Eagle Dustoff.
In combat situations, enemy activity may hinder a well-practiced routine, so the aircrew may have to try different methods to provide aid to the patient.
"Depending on the situation, I could lower the medic while the aircraft hovers …, or I will lower the medic as the aircraft approaches the rendezvous point," said Johnson.
The combat medic is usually the person who is lowered on the hoist, but if something happens to the medic on the ground, one of the crew chiefs is the alternate.
"The pilots have a way to control the hoist from the front of the aircraft, but because they are unable to see from the side of the aircraft we have a wireless radio to aid in a safe hoist to save the life of the patient," Johnson.
It is very important for the hoist operator to watch for any objects that could injure the medic.
"There (is) uneven, mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, and we want to make certain that we ensure the medic has the capability to safely get to the patient without injury," said Johnson.
Though the Medevac Company is a part of the Task Force Wings element Joint Operations Aviation Exercise with 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, they still find time to practice and train Soldiers on combat hoist operations because it has been proven to be advantageous while deployed.
"Practicing permits us to fix any issues and sharpen our skills and this is great preparation in the event the hoist is needed," said Hale.
"There are a few of the crew chiefs I want to get qualified on the combat hoist, in the event one of them may need to lower or be lowered on the hoist," said Johnson. "We will do all we can to attempt to save a life."
Try as they may, neither injury nor Mother Nature will stop a well-trained U.S. Army Medevac technician.