YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – Soldiers assigned to the United States Army Air Ambulance Detachment- Yakima (USAAAD), 2-158 Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade performed an aeromedical evacuation of a civilian near Mount Stuart, Wash. on Oct. 16, 2022.
The mission started when the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office requested federal support through the Washington State Emergency Operations Center for a high-powered helicopter with hoist capability to recover an injured hiker near Mount Stuart.
At 11:53 a.m. a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for Leavenworth, Wash. where the aircrew picked up two civilian search and rescue volunteers from Chelan County Mountain Rescue.
“Upon receiving the call, we knew we’d need help from search and rescue volunteers,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matt Kravulski, the pilot in command of the mission. “We were able to pick them up about seven miles from the point where the injured hiker was located, but what would have taken them eight hours by ground took us less than ten minutes.”
The aircrew were able to land and deploy the mountain rescue team near the south face of Mount Stuart, approximately 200 yards from the hiker and his partner, and believed that ground rescue may be possible from that point.
“The injury wasn’t that serious, a broken arm, but due to the extreme terrain we didn’t know if they’d be able to make it back without us, so we returned to YTC for fuel and remained ready in case they decided evacuating the patient by air was the best course of action,” Kravulski said. “The [Chelan County] sheriff’s office ended up calling us back out there just under two hours after we had returned to YTC, requesting we return to extract the hikers and rescuers.”
Due to changing winds, the aircrew was unable to land this time, however.
“Fortunately, the rescue team placed some white pieces of tape up to act as windsocks, and no one on our crew in the air believed it safe enough to attempt a landing,” Kravulski said. “We were at 8,000 feet in elevation and deployed our hoist four times to recover the injured hiker, his partner, and the two search and rescue volunteers in just under 30 minutes.”
The aircrew transported the patient, a 28-year-old male with a broken arm and beginning to show signs of shock, to Leavenworth where they were able to land and exchange the patient with a ground ambulance coordinated by Chelan County.
“Successful missions like this show how important it is that we establish relationships with the local civilian agencies, and regularly train to maintain the kind of integration that is critical for these kinds of operations,” said Capt. Danielle McDermott, USAAAD’s executive officer and second in command.
The unit is based out of Yakima Training Center in central Washington. USAAAD operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide aeromedical evacuation support for thousands of service members training at Yakima Training Center each year.
Additionally, the detachment works with the Washington State Emergency Operations Center, local sheriff departments, and civilian volunteers to provide rescue coverage in south-central Washington’s remote wilderness areas.
The life-saving aeromedical evacuation is a collaborative effort. As a detachment with 33 personnel and four aircraft, every member of the team is vital to USAAAD.
The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade operates two aeromedical evacuation units that provide defense support to civil authorities: Yakima Dustoff in central Washington and Arctic Dustoff in central Alaska.