U.S. Army helicopter unit conducts rescue near Snoqualmie Pass

By Capt. Kyle AbrahamJuly 24, 2023

U.S. Army helicopter unit conducts rescue near Snoqualmie Pass
A UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachement-Yakima, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade orbits above the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Wash. on Jul. 22, 2023 during a rescue mission. Photo courtesy of Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD Commander, who happened to be camping two miles from the incident location. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. – Soldiers assigned to the United States Army Air Ambulance Detachment- Yakima (USAAAD), 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade performed an aeromedical evacuation of a civilian in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Wash. on Jul. 22, 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 injured civilian.

At 3:43 p.m., a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for the hiker’s reported location in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, just north of Snoqualmie Pass. The aircrew arrived at the location of the injured hiker at 4:12 p.m.

“The patient was at about 5,500 feet in rugged wooded terrain, but the visibility was unlimited, and the wind was manageable,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffery Bear, pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patient’s reported location, there was no suitable landing area due to the complex terrain, so we deployed our flight medic by hoisting him approximately 140 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”

The aircrew orbited over the wilderness area while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patient and prepared her for transport.

USAAAD trains with civilian search and rescue
A flight medic assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment-Yakima, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, descends from a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter on a hoist 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

“The patient was conscious but had injuries to the head that were bad enough to make ground evacuation nearly impossible,” Staff Sgt. Benjamin Byrd, the critical care flight paramedic on the mission, said. “Once I was able to get to her it was a straightforward evacuation. As soon as I made contact, I assessed her condition and prepared her for the hoist; we were able to hoist her out quickly so I was on the ground for less than 30 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.

“These kinds of missions demonstrate our Soldiers’ dedication to the mission and the medical treatment capabilities of our critical care flight paramedics,” Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Trujillo, USAAAD’s senior enlisted advisor, said. “To extract a patient with a significant head injury, in such treacherous terrain, in under thirty minutes from the time the medic made contact to the time he got her into the aircraft, on a Saturday afternoon, underscores how important remaining true to our motto ‘To Save A Life’ is to these Soldiers.”

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: USAAAD-Yakima in central Washington and Charlie Company, 1-52nd General Support Aviation Battalion in central Alaska.