By Season Osterfeld, Fort Riley Public AffairsFebruary 5, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- "We have a UH-60 Black Hawk inbound -- motor failure," said a voice-over on the radios carried by firefighters from Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services.
Moments later, the helicopter came in, easing down onto the runway of Marshall Army Airfield. Fire trucks from Station 3 were dispatched and rushed across the airfield to reach the aircraft. At first, they set up a perimeter to maintain a safe distance until the helicopter had stilled and they were certain there were no risks of an explosion occurring.
This scenario was part of a two-day annual training exercise Jan. 24 and 25 between the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, FRFES, Marshall Army Airfield personnel and Fort Riley Emergency Medical crews.
In the scenario, the UH-60 Blackhawk suffered hydraulic failure and the crew were injured. One had a broken femur, another a concussion and the last could not feel anything from the waist down, said Spc. Justin Jackson, Company C, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div.
"We had a hard landing called in, so we positioned our vehicles for accessing the aircraft," said Capt. Ryan Trudo from Fire Station 4, FRFES. "From there, we're going to go ahead and ensure we can safely get the flight crew out and position our apparatus as advantageously as we can. We positioned a triage area to get our persons in the aircraft, get those people off the aircraft, stage them with EMS and get them out."
As Fire Station 3, which is located on the airfield, established a perimeter, crews from other stations also arrived to set up additional perimeters, establish a triage station and assist in extracting the crew from the aircraft.
"We were notified there were three patients on board with various injuries, so we responded with our full confidence of apparatus out here with two trucks and our structural engine and water supply tend and rescue truck," said Battalion Chief Wes Hill, FRFES. "Fort Riley EMS also responded out here to provide their assistance."
While Jackson, the crew member with the concussion, was able to walk out of the aircraft on his own and be escorted to the triage station for EMS evaluation, the other two crew members -- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Poole and Chief Warrant Officer 2
Zach Francis, both of 3rd AHB, 1st Avn. Regt., 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div. -- had to be extracted from the helicopter by a team of firefighters who needed to stabilize them and place them onto a stretcher.
This posed a challenge for them as they had to navigate the tight spaces of the aircraft, learn how to lay back the seats and remove the Soldiers without causing further injury or pain to them. Moments like that are why having actual people and the equipment present are vital to effective training, Hill said.
"We always enjoy drills like this because you get an actual, live aircraft, so we actually have something to look at, assimilated to and practice up to, so it was a great exercise all around," he said.
Jackson said the training went smoothly and he was impressed by the skills of the firefighters and EMS. He said training for worst-case scenarios like this can be the difference between life and death.
"If you don't know what to do and you're surprised by something, then it can go worse than it actually would be, but if you actually train for what's to come and you see it coming, then people can keep their lives," Jackson said.
Once the scenario wrapped up, 1st CAB Soldiers took the firefighters and EMS crews through a question and answers session about the crews and aircraft. This was to teach them about things that can assist them in rescuing the crew and what dangers they need to be aware of.
The scenario and lesson session both helped to improve trust, communication and understanding among all the participants, Trudo said.
"We get better each time," he said. "Communications and skill sets and efficiency -- those always improve."
Throughout the training, one thing was clear -- teamwork was a strength for everyone involved, Hill said.
"It brings everything together," he said of training. "At the fire department, we train for these type of emergencies daily, so whenever we have these type of exercises, it just puts our skills to the test, proves our worth when it comes to training."