News: Task Force Gunfighters practices medevac hoist
Story by Capt. Andrew Cochran
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Aviators and medics with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation) practiced medical evacuation hoist training with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters Friday at Multi-National Base Tarin Kot.
“Hoist training is the use of the jungle penetrator to extract patients from the battlefield,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Osbourne Ferguson, the aviation mission survivability officer for the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade.
The aviators and medics, assigned to Task Force Gunfighters, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, are responsible for the medevac mission throughout Regional Command South, Southwest and West, an area approximately the size of the state of Montana with 10,000-foot mountains and open deserts.
“In mountainous terrain, like Afghanistan, the possibility of needing the hoist is real,” Fergusson continued. “Medical evacuation missions could take us anywhere at any time, and we need to be ready.”
The company’s aviators and medics routinely practice using the hoist throughout Afghanistan.
Sgt. Joshua Steveson, a Black Hawk crew chief with more than 1,700 flight hours and three previous combat deployments, understands the importance of practice makes perfect.
“Hoisting is an inherently dangerous operation,” Steveson said. “The cable will spool out at 250 feet per minute, and without good depth perception, you could pancake the medic into the ground. It is a very learned skill.”
The use of the jungle penetrator, a heavy piece of metal designed with fold out seats and straps, dates back to Vietnam. Its use for tough medical evacuation situations is standard throughout Army aviation.
Despite the danger, Staff Sgt. Michael Longhenry, a veteran combat flight medic with C Company, believes the hoist as the true “feel-good, superman” mission for medevac.
“Terrain may not always dictate that the aircraft can land where the patient is,” said Lonhenry. “We need to be able to put the medic on the ground to continue treatment, package the patient and get the patient into the aircraft regardless of the terrain.”
Soldiers with 2-244th Airfield Operations Battalion, Louisiana National Guard, were the practice “patients” and rode the hoist up and down. For them, the hoist was both a fun break from their daily routine and a learning experience.
“This is fun training for us as air traffic controllers,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Solis, the senior airfield manager for MNB Tarin Kot. “Cross training with the pilots and crew members of the aircraft we guide into the airfield helps us better understand the information they need for the job they do.”
Solis, a former Black Hawk crew chief from New Orleans and veteran of disaster relief for hurricane Katrina in 2005, knows hoist operations are key for rescue missions.
“Units who don’t work with aviation don’t understand aviation,” Solis said. “Using the hoist was the only way to reach the people needing transportation via helicopter following Katrina.”
Injured or stranded soldiers and civilians can take heart in the knowledge C Company will come to their aid.
“No matter the terrain, the weather, no matter anything, we are always going to be able get the patient into the back of the aircraft. That is what medevac is and what it's always been about,” said Longhenry.