FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – Soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade performed an aeromedical evacuation of a civilian near Gold King Creek, Alaska on Sep. 17, 2023.
The mission started when a hunter began exhibiting symptoms related to hypothermia and contacted local authorities. Federal support was requested through the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center for a high-powered helicopter with hoist capability to recover the patient.
At 6:51 p.m., a U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Fort Wainwright for the patient’s reported location near Gold King Creek, Alaska, approximately halfway between Fairbanks and Denali National Park.
“We identified a hunting party in the vicinity of the reported location of the patient that immediately signaled the aircrew that they were in distress. We determined that there was not a suitable landing location and committed to a hoist extraction. We lowered the flight medic, Staff Sgt. Joseph Uribe, to confirm that the hunters were the same individuals who had requested rescue,” said Capt. Conor Dolan, the pilot in command of the mission.
The aircrew continued to orbit the area while the medic prepared the hunter for transport, eventually coming to a hover again to extract the patient and medic.
“I was hoisted down 50 feet into the patient’s camp. Once on the ground I conducted an initial medical evaluation and then got the patient ready to be recovered with the hoist. Once we were back in the aircraft, I ensured the patient was stable and conducted hypothermia preventions until he was delivered to a higher level of care,” Staff. Sgt. Uribe said.
After the patient was secured in the aircraft, he was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, arriving at 8:12 p.m., and the aircrew returned to Fort Wainwright.
“Hoist missions are the most dangerous operations we carry out. I am very proud of the crew's expertise and am proud to be able to support our fellow Soldiers and the citizens of Alaska,” said Capt. Laura Penley, the Charlie Co. operations officer.
Based out of Fort Wainwright in central Alaska, the unit operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide aeromedical evacuation support for thousands of service members training at Fort Wainwright each year.
Additionally, the unit works with the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and local emergency services to provide rescue coverage in northern Alaska’s remote wilderness areas.
This life-saving mission is a collaborative effort: As the only active-duty Army aeromedical evacuation unit in Alaska, every member of the team is vital to the mission.
The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade operates two aeromedical evacuation units that provide defense support to civil authorities: U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment-Yakima in central Washington and Charlie Company, 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion in central Alaska.