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 adult from the community of Tok, Alaska, on New Year’s Eve.
The patient experienced a medical emergency that required a higher level of care than was available in the community of approximately 1,400 residents. Due to the long distance from both Fairbanks and Anchorage hospitals and the wintry road conditions, assistance was requested through the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center for evacuation by air.
The aeromedical evacuation unit, known as Arctic Dustoff, received the notification of a potential MEDEVAC request at 12:53 p.m. and recalled the on-call crew. The mission was approved at 1:38 p.m., and the crew departed Ladd Army Airfield at 1:42 p.m.
The sky was clear with exceptional visibility, and the crew arrived quickly at Tok Junction Airport, where the patient was staged in an ambulance.
Upon arrival, the crew was met by a Guardian Flight nurse, who was caring for the patient during the wait for the Army crew. Guardian Flight is a critical care medical transportation company primarily serving rural and remote communities. The nurse accompanied the patient on the flight to provide continuing care.
“We do not normally work directly with Guardian Flight, but having another medical professional available to treat the patient is always appreciated,” said Maj. Jeffrey Crook, the pilot in command of the mission and company commander for Charlie Company. “As Guardian Flight was the initial responder, they were on site to assist with the transfer and had the best insight on the patient’s status.”
The helicopter touched down at FMH at 5:06 p.m., and the patient was transferred to a waiting ambulance and then to the hospital to receive further care. After briefing the hospital staff on the patient’s condition and treatments administered, the crew proceeded back to Ladd where they completed their mission and reset the aircraft in preparation for the next mission.
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. The New Year’s Eve rescue was not the first on a holiday in recent times; the Dustoff team evacuated three injured teenagers from the village of Chalkyitsik this past Halloween.
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 Crook, the crew for this mission included an additional pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Garrett Showell; a medic, Staff Sgt. Beau McIntosh; and a crew chief, Sgt. Adam Stahl.
In reflecting on the mission, Crook said, “I am always impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the numerous agencies that stand ready around the clock to help those in need. This was truly a team effort among federal, local, and private emergency services to get the patient to the necessary higher level of care as quickly as possible.”