Army Aviation

U.S. Army Unit Conducts Rescue on Mount Adams

A flight medic assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment-Yakima, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, descends from a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter on a hoist on Jun. 5, 2023 near Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Wash. The unit was training with local search and rescue volunteers in preparation for the summer rescue season. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Kyle Abraham, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade)

Soldiers assigned to the United States Army Air Ambulance Detachment- Yakima (USAAAD), 2-158 Assault Helicopter Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade performed an aeromedical evacuation of a civilian on Mount Adams, Wash. on Jun. 14, 2023.

The mission started when a climber was injured, and her partner sent a distress message to the Yakima 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 stranded civilian.

At 8:53 p.m., a USAAAD UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter departed Yakima Training Center for the “Lunch Counter” area on the southwest slope of Mount Adams. The aircrew arrived at the location of the injured climber at 9:18 p.m.

“The patient was at almost 7,000 feet on a 30-degree slope, but the visibility was excellent, and the winds were manageable,” said CW2 Terry Wald, the pilot in command of the mission. “When we arrived at the patient’s reported location, we could not find a suitable place to land the aircraft, so we deployed our flight medic by hoisting him approximately 30 feet down from the hovering helicopter.”

The aircrew remained in the air above the Gifford Pinchot National Forest while the flight medic on the ground assessed the patient and prepared her for transport.

“The patient was alert but had a severe leg injury,” Sgt. 1st Class. Adrian Trujillo, the critical care flight paramedic on the mission and USAAAD First Sergeant, said. “Fortunately, I was able to rapidly prepare her for transport and get her out of there without any complications; I was on the mountain less than 20 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,” Maj. Alec DeGroat, USAAAD Commander, said. “From the time we were notified of the mission, to the time the aircrew returned to Yakima Training Center was the span of less than two and a half hours. Efficiency like that only comes through dedication and training.”

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.