By 1st Lt. Jessica DonnellyAugust 31, 2016
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Members of the South Carolina Army National Guard responded to a call for help to rescue an injured hiker from the Sumter National Forest along the Chattooga River near the South Carolina-Georgia border on Saturday, Aug. 27.
When first responders realized they were unable to evacuate the hiker due to the remote location, they called for support from the South Carolina National Guard, explained Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hutto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot.
The Joint Operations Center then alerted the aviation unit of the mission, and a crew responded to the request to provide medevac support.
Hutto explained, once the helicopter was on site, the rescue took less than 30 minutes. Once they were positioned, Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Thibeau, Company F, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment flight paramedic, administered care to the patient and helped getting him hoisted into the helicopter.
"I introduced myself to the patient, did an assessment of his condition, and explained to him that we were about to hoist him up about 200 feet into the air," said Thibeau.
"I told him he needed to trust me. He had been out on the embankment for a long time, but his day was almost over. We were going to get him out of there."
Once back in the helicopter, Thibeau administered an IV and continued to monitor the patient's vital signs until they were able to deliver the hiker to a nearby civilian hospital, Oconee Medical Center.
To give an idea of the remoteness the hiker's location, Hutto explained, rescuers used 235 feet of the Black Hawk's 244 feet-long hoist line to reach the patient with the helicopter just 30 feet above the tree line.
During the rescue, which was conducted at nightfall, the crew was monitoring the weather as adverse conditions were developing. Night vision goggles were required to conduct the hoist extraction.
The rescue was the first true medevac mission conducted by an all-Army crew in the South Carolina Army National Guard, according to Hutto.