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 in Klickitat County, Wash. on Jul. 19, 2023.
The mission started when a paraglider was injured and sent a distress message to the Klickitat 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 4:40 p.m., a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for the Columbia Hills, a cliff formation on the Washington side of the Columbia River across from Rufus, Ore. The aircrew arrived at the location of the injured paraglider at 5:12 p.m.
“The patient was at about 1,400 feet inside of a draw, but the visibility was excellent, and the wind was calm,” said Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD commander and pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patient’s reported location, we saw she was on a 30-degree slope, so we deployed our flight medic by hoisting him approximately 60 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”
The aircrew landed on a flat piece of terrain downslope from the patient’s location while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patient and prepared her for transport.
“The patient was conscious but had injuries to the head, ribs, and leg that were bad enough to make ground evacuation extraordinarily difficult,” Staff Sgt. Brendan Silkey, the critical care flight paramedic on the mission, said. “Once I was able to get to her it was a straightforward evacuation. I was able to assess her condition and prepare her for transport; we were able to hoist her out expeditiously. I was on the ridge for about 45 minutes.”
After the patient and medic were extracted via hoist, the aircraft transported the patient to MultiCare Memorial Hospital in Yakima and then returned to Yakima Training Center.
“Successful missions like this are a testament to our air ambulance crews and flight operations personnel that regularly train to maintain the necessary flight, medical, and operational skills for these kinds of missions,” DeGroat said. “From the time we departed for the mission, to the time we returned to Yakima Training Center was the span of less than two and a half hours. These Soldiers deserve every accolade they’ve received; I couldn’t be prouder to lead this organization.”
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.