JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment and civilian volunteers from Central Washington Mountain Rescue performed a life-saving aeromedical evacuation of two civilian hikers, one who sustained an injury to the right hip, at Mount Adams, Wash., Oct. 3.
At approximately 10:45 p.m., the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center received a call from a 911 call center in Yakima County, Wash., requesting assistance in the rescue two hikers reported to be in a hypothermic state on the side of the mountain.
With no time to spare, a team including a pilot, copilot, a crew chief, and a flight medic assigned to USAAAD, nicknamed Yakima Dustoff, suited up and swiftly responded to the call. Unaware of deteriorating health conditions, the team prepared the aircraft with blankets, oxygen, trauma bags and everything needed to sustain care in flight.
"We had 15 minutes to be wheels up in order to maintain the golden-hour standard in order to achieve the highest rate of survival," said Sgt. Brendan Silkey, a flight medic assigned to USAAAD and a Hubbardston, Mass., native. "Once the call came in, we immediately partnered with two members of the Central Washington Mountain Rescue and began in-flight preparations to provide lifesaving care.”
The CWMR is a volunteer organization that works with the Yakima County Sheriff's Department to assist with emergencies.
“We rely heavily on those experts to reduce risks and ultimately assist us with patients the proper care,” said Maj. Jason West, commander of Yakima Dustoff. “They are skilled with navigating the mountainous, treacherous terrain.”
Scaling to 9,500 feet, the team navigated through steep, rocky terrain avoiding two cliff edges to locate the hikers.
“Our main goal is to make sure we get to the patients in a timely manner all while ensuring the safety of our team members,” said Sgt. Cody Bayne, the team’s crew chief and a Scottsbluff, Neb., native. “The pilots had to find a way to angle the slope as close as possible without blowing debris in the targeted area.”
Upon their arrival to Mount Adams, the crew assessed, secured, and hoisted two hikers into the aircraft where they were then transported to Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital without incident.
Both hikers were noted to be in stable condition with normal vitals.
Based out of Yakima Training Center in the south central portion of Washington, Yakima Dustoff is a unit under the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide short-notice, all-weather, high-altitude aeromedical evacuation support for thousands of Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord training at Yakima Training Center each year.
In addition, the detachment works with the Yakima County Sheriff's Department and civilian volunteers to provide search and rescue coverage in the nearby mountain and natural areas.
“Our mission is important because we are a unique unit that not only supports Soldiers, but the local civilian population,” said Silkey. “We provide air medical platform assets that are not available in the local area. We have the ability to fly at high altitude, day or night, and hoist casualties from the ground without having to land.”
The company, whose motto is “To Save a Life,” prides itself on their quick response capability as well as their ability to provide the best care possible on every mission they are called to.
“We approach every situation the same way,” said West. “The training the teams receive is invaluable to enhancing the level of care provided to the patients.”
This year alone, the USAAAD has conducted seven missions resulting in lives saved.
The life-saving aeromedical evacuation is a collaborative effort. As a detachment with 31 personnel and four aircrafts, every member of the team is vital to Yakima Dustoff.