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 near Colchuck Lake, Wash. on Oct. 4, 2023.
The mission started when a hiker was injured and sent a distress message to the Chelan 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 7:02 p.m., a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for the hiker’s reported location near Colchuck Lake, in the Wenatchee National Forest. The aircrew arrived at the location of the injured hiker at 7:35 p.m.
“The patient was at about 4,500 feet in a boulder field surrounded by tall trees. Visibility was great, and the wind was manageable, but flying in the mountains is always challenging.” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry Wald, pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patient’s location, there was no suitable landing area due to the tall trees and terrain, so we deployed our flight medic by hoisting him approximately 140 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”
The aircrew departed the area and landed at the Leavenworth National Fish hatchery to conserve fuel while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patient and prepared her for transport.
“The patient was conscious but had complex lower body injuries to the pelvis and lower back that would have been bad enough to make ground evacuation life threatening,” Sgt. 1st Class, Johnathan Chapman, the critical care flight paramedic on the mission, said. “Once I was able to get to her, I assessed her condition and prepared her for transport on a spine-board and folding litter with help from the Chelan County Mountain Rescue volunteers on site.”
The aircrew decided that the patient was stable enough so that refueling at Pangborn Memorial Airport in the nearby town of Wenatchee would not put her at additional risk. At 8:57 p.m. the aircrew departed Wenatchee to extract the patient and medic.
After the patient and medic were extracted in two separate 140-foot hoists, the aircraft transported the patient to MultiCare Memorial Hospital in Yakima and then returned to Yakima Training Center.
“A mission like this underscores the professionalism of our critical care flight paramedic Soldiers and aircrew,” Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD Commander and co-pilot on this mission, said. “Sgt. 1st Class Chapman was able to expertly assess and stabilize the patient; he kept her calm and reassured in the 90 minutes he spent with her on the ground, the hoist up to the helicopter, and the flight to [MultiCare] Memorial Hospital. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
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.