MEDEVAC drill prepares crews for crises

Photo by Jason Miller, Public Affairs Office

United States Army Soldiers with C Company, 2916th Aviation Battalion, 916th Sustainment Brigade, initiated a downed aircraft MEDEVAC exercise along with firefighters from the Fort Irwin Fire Department just outside the training village of Razish, Jan. 13.

Fort Irwin Air Traffic Controllers received a mayday transmission from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, carrying four crewmembers, just seven minutes into their flight from the Fort Irwin main post helipad. The aircraft location and nature of the emergency was never transmitted by the crewmembers. The distress call from the aircraft triggered emergency personnel from across the installation to begin downed aircraft operating procedures.

“Our job is to find and plug those holes found in our standard operating procedures after an exercise like this,” said Maj. Matthew Partyka, commander of C Co. “We are doing this more often and my job is to try and make them as realistic as possible.”

The MEDEVAC bell rang loudly at C Company’s flight operations center, giving the UH-60 Blackhawk stand-by crew only 15 minutes to grab their gear, receive their mission and be airborne en route to the incident.

Less than 20 minutes from the initial distress call, the first pair of flight medics were on scene at the simulated crash site. Sgt. Lukas Alvarez, flight medic with C Co., and Scott Wygal, flight medic with the Fort Irwin Fire Department, began to triage the “injured” crewmembers immediately upon landing at the scene.

After triage, Alvarez and Wygal found two Soldiers “deceased” upon arrival, which left the remaining two in need of immediate evacuation for further treatment due to their traumatic injuries. Alvarez began treatment on an injured Soldier, who appeared to be thrown from the downed aircraft suffering from an amputated right arm.

“I quickly applied a tourniquet to the patient’s right arm and then applied a chest seal,” said Alvarez. “I also performed a needle chest decompression to relieve some of the pressure on his lungs.”

The other injured Soldier, under the care of Wygal, remained in the pilot seat and was trapped by debris from the downed UH-60 Blackhawk. Wygal immediately requested more assets for extraction. Within minutes, another UH-60 Blackhawk arrived delivering Fort Irwin firefighters with an extraction kit. As firefighters used their equipment to remove the injured Soldier trapped by debris, emergency crews loaded the ejected Soldier, treated by Alvarez, onto an awaiting UH-60 Blackhawk. After extraction of the pilot, firefighters and medics loaded the Soldier onto the last aircraft, ending the exercise. The whole operation took less than an hour.

“The main thing we do is take care of patients and get them to the hospital, get them to the highest level of care possible.” Partyka, said.