U.S. Army helicopter unit conducts rescue near Chalkyitsik, Alaska

By Eve BakerNovember 3, 2023

U.S. Army helicopter unit conducts rescue near Chalkyitsik, Alaska
A UH60L Blackhawk helicopter belonging to Charlie Company, 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, is parked on the airfield at Fort Wainwright while its crew prepares for a mission. The aurora borealis puts on a show overhead. (Photo by CPT Jesse Long) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – Soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, performed an aeromedical evacuation of three teenaged civilians from Chalkyitsik, Alaska on October 31, 2023.

The teens sustained injuries in a snowmachine accident near the remote village on Halloween evening. Due to the severity of their injuries and the community being located off the road system, assistance was requested through the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.

The aeromedical evacuation unit, known as Arctic Dustoff, was participating in a training flight when they received the notification at 9:38 p.m. They returned to Ladd Army Airfield at Fort Wainwright to reconfigure the aircraft for three patients and then departed at 11:22 p.m.

After passing the White Mountains, the crew experienced unexpected poor weather conditions that included reduced visibility and ceilings as well as mixed precipitation, but they landed safely at the Chalkyitsik airport at 1:00 a.m. where the patients were staged.

“Here in Alaska, more often than not, there is some type of complication during MEDEVAC calls; this mission was no different. The crew worked together, along with various [air traffic control] facilities, to ensure our patients received the medical attention they need,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnathan Horvath, the pilot in command of the mission.

Upon arrival, Staff Sgt. Joseph Uribe, flight paramedic, assessed the patients prior to loading them onto the aircraft. The crew departed approximately 15 minutes later with the patients and their mothers, with Uribe conducting additional evaluations and care en route to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

The crew touched down at FMH at 2:51 a.m., and the patients were transferred to a waiting ambulance and then to the hospital to receive further care. Uribe informed the hospital staff of his evaluation and treatments administered, and then the crew proceeded back to Ladd where they completed their mission and reset the aircraft in preparation for the next mission.

“Each mission we launch on comes with its own set of challenges, but thanks to the coordination between Sgt. Perez, our pilots, and myself, we were able to optimize patient treatment and ensure the patients were cared for until they could be transferred to a higher role of care,” Uribe said.

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.

Along with Horvath and Uribe, the crew included an additional pilot, Warrant Officer Sebastian Szewczyk, and a crew chief, Sgt. Ricardo Perez.

Maj. Jeff Crook, the Charlie Company commander, praised his soldiers’ actions, saying, “We at Arctic Dustoff continuously work on improving our medical and flight capabilities for this very purpose. I am proud of our ability to assist the citizens of the state of Alaska on their worst days and proud of our flight crews for their dedication to the same.”