U.S. Army unit conducts rescue near Navaho Peak

By Capt. Kyle AbrahamJune 25, 2023

USAAAD trains with civilian search and rescue
A flight medic assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment-Yakima, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, is lifted by a hoist on a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter on Jun. 5, 2023 near Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Wash. The unit was training with local search and rescue volunteers in preparation for the summer rescue season. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Kyle Abraham, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade) (Photo Credit: Capt. Kyle Abraham) VIEW ORIGINAL

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 Navaho Peak, Wash. on Jun. 24, 2023.

The mission started when a hiker was injured and sent a distress message to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office. After determining that ground rescue would not be possible over the terrain the patient was located at, federal support was requested through the Washington State Emergency Operations Center for a high-powered helicopter with hoist capability to recover the stranded civilian.

At 8:33 p.m., a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for Navaho Peak, a 7,162 foot mountain in the Wenatchee National Forest. The aircrew arrived at the location of the injured hiker at 8:58 p.m.

“The patient was at about 5,600 feet on a ridge north of Cle Elum, but the visibility was excellent, and there was virtually no wind,” said CW3 Richard Corley, the pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patient’s reported location, we could not find a suitable place to land the aircraft, so we deployed our flight medic by hoisting him approximately 140 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”

The aircrew remained in the air above the Wenatchee National Forest while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patient and prepared him for transport.

“The patient was alert but had a leg injury that was bad enough to make ground evacuation extraordinarily difficult,” Sgt. 1st Class. Johnathan Chapman, the critical care flight paramedic on the mission, said. “Once I was able to get to him it was a straightforward evacuation. I prepared him for transport and was able to hoist him out fairly quick; I was on the ridge less than 40 minutes.”

After the patient and medic were extracted via hoist, the aircraft transported the patient to MultiCare Memorial Hospital in Yakima and then returned to Yakima Training Center.

“Successful missions like this are a testament to our air ambulance crews and flight operations personnel; that regularly train to maintain the necessary flight, medical, and operational skills for missions like this,” Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD Commander, said. “From the time the aircrew departed for the mission, to the time they returned to Yakima Training Center was the span of less than two hours. Once again these dedicated Soldiers proved that we are truly ready to respond around the clock, every day, to support the civilian authorities.”

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 central Washington’s remote wilderness areas.

The life-saving aeromedical evacuation is a collaborative effort. As a detachment with 33 personnel and four UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, 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.