By Sgt. Alun ThomasJanuary 25, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 25, 2010) -- From the ground, it appears a daunting prospect -- being hoisted 75 feet in the air to a hovering UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
In the face of an emergency medical situation, especially when there is no clear area for aircraft to land, the task becomes a necessity.
These were some of the conditions medevac crew chiefs from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade faced when they undertook hoist training Jan. 21.
Training with hoists is not common in Iraq due to mostly flat surfaces which makes the opportunity to use the hoist valuable, said Chief Warrant Officer Brian Rinck, a standardization pilot for 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division.
"This training will help us get prepared for an Afghanistan rotation or something like Hurricane Katrina where they commonly use hoists," Rinck said. "It's the last resort we have for getting injured Soldiers and people out of an urban or hilly area where we can't land our aircraft."
For Rinck, keeping the aircraft steady while the victim is hoisted into the aircraft is essential in ensuring safety.
"As far as a pilot's concerned, it's finessing the aircraft and doing your best to hold it at a stable hover without changing the altitude of the aircraft," Rinck explained. "That way, a medic can go down on the hoist, perform any first aid or rescue that's needed and hoist that patient back up into the aircraft."
Rinck said finding accurate terrain to train on is important in maintaining a stable platform, with varying heights used for different scenarios.
"We'll train with a block at 50 feet to 100 feet and we'll train with a live hoist at 25 and 75 feet," Rinck said. "Once you're at the 75 foot level, the aerodynamic conditions of the aircraft improve and make it more stable."
Having not been in an emergency situation where the hoist is required, Rinck said attention to detail during the training was vital.
"It goes through your mind that not only do you have to keep the aircraft level, but there's also a live person out there going down that hoist," he said. "Everyone has to know what is going on in the aircraft, both front and back."
Overseeing the training was Staff Sgt. Luis Torres, a Black Hawk crew chief from Company C, 2-227th, 1st ACB - in the same company as Rinck - who said he wanted to ensure the correct standards were met for using the hoist.
"The hoist is one of our missions as a medevac unit, so you need to be able to train people to use it in case we have to extract someone in an area we can't land the aircraft," Torres said. "It's a crucial part of our job so I have to make sure everyone's capable of not just riding the hoist, but operating it."
As part of the training, Torres said he would be responsible for lowering the medic down to the site and recovering both medic and patient.
"With the wind changing, there will a lot of drifting left to right, so we have to call in the corrections of which way the pilot has to move the aircraft," Torres said.
If called upon to administer hoist training, there is no room for error. Timing is of the essence.
"It can't be prolonged and has to be done as fast as possible," Torres said. "At the same time, you don't want to rush in and get anyone hurt, so it's a balance you have to find. It's all about keeping things fast, but keeping them safe."
(Sgt. Alun Thomas writes for 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div, USD-C)