Airmen from the 943rd Rescue Group here set out in a HH-60G Pave Hawk for a training mission May 22, when they were notified that a hiker was unconscious from a fall and needed help.
The aircrew flew back to base, offloaded their weapons, fueled up, and picked up a Guardian Angel team, special operators trained in trauma medicine and high-angle rescue — and then went to the hiker’s aid.
Earlier in the evening, operators with the Arizona Department of Safety attempted to do a long-line rescue with their helicopter, but could not make it up the canyon as darkness was setting in. Wearing night vision goggles, the Airmen of the 943rd RQG hoisted the 17-year-old hiker to safety around 11 p.m.
“We do so much training together as a rescue team that even with some of the limited communications we were experiencing with the (pararescuemen) on the ground; we knew exactly what their objectives were and what they were doing; it made this rescue mission seamless,” said Capt. Brough McDonald, an HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot with the 305th Rescue Squadron.
The hiker who needed help was in the Dragon Mountains, part of the Chiricahua National Monument, about 50 miles east of Tucson, Ariz.
“The initial report on the patient was a very severe head injury,” said Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Bedard, a pararescueman with the 306th Rescue Squadron. “When we got on scene, he was already on a back board, so we hoisted him up to the helicopter. He was not as bad as the initial report had indicated.”
Once the patient was hoisted out of the mountain, he was transported to a Life Flight helicopter in a landing zone about two miles away from where he had initially fallen. The 943rd RQG Airmen also hoisted up the civilian search and rescue personnel, and returned to base.
“Because of the location of where the hiker fell, it was a difficult hoist and the aircrew from the 305th Rescue Squadron did an excellent job with the hoist operations,” Bedard said.
According to the rescue summary report, Airmen from the 943rd Maintenance Squadron got the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter prepared in record time.
“We train as we fight, and the great part about rescue is that does not have always have to be combat rescue,” said Col. Harold Maxwell, 943rd RQG commander. “As Citizen Airmen we are always ready to help out our local community. The rescue mission is one of the noblest missions in the Air Force, and I’m extremely proud of the team work and effort by all involved with this mission.”