News: Arizona air ambulance hoists Special Forces from Meteor Crater
Story by Sgt. Brian Barbour
PHOENIX – An Arizona Army National Guard aviation detachment here participated in a personnel recovery exercise May 14, in support of Exercise Angel Thunder, extracting Army Special Forces members from the bottom of Meteor Crater, 20 miles west of Winslow, Arizona.
Detachment 1, C Company, 5-159th Air Ambulance based at Papago Park Military Reservation participated in the non-conventional assisted recovery mission. They extracted Soldiers by UH-60 Black Hawk and hoist and took them to Winslow Airport where they boarded an Air Force C-130 cargo plane.
For Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Rovey, instructor pilot for the 5-159th, one of the biggest highlights of the mission was the location at Meteor Crater, he said. Not many people get an opportunity to fly into it.
After the Black Hawk descended into the crater, it hovered about 100 feet above the extraction point. Army Staff Sgt. Tim Larson, senior flight medic and platoon sergeant with the unit, went down the hoist first to meet with the Special Forces group.
“Part of my job is to make contact with the people on the ground,” said Larson. “To make sure they are hoisted to the aircraft safely.”
The extraction took the crew to the bottom of the 50,000 year-old, 550-foot deep-crater where they brought up two people at a time into the aircraft. The actual extraction took approximately 12 minutes.
The personnel recovery mission presented a good opportunity for Arizona’s Citizen-Soldiers to interact with other service branches, said Chief Warrant Officer, Riley Burdick, a 5-159th Black Hawk pilot.
For the medical detachment, having the chance to fly a Black Hawk inside the crater and hoist someone out was a once in a lifetime experience.
“Rovey mentioned to me that we got to fly in there and we didn’t lose our license for it,” Burdick said with a smile. “The chances we’ll get to fly in there again are slim to none.”
According to Department of Defense officials, Angel Thunder is the largest and most realistic joint service, multinational, interagency combat search and rescue exercise designed to provide training for personnel recovery assets using a variety of scenarios to simulate deployment conditions and contingencies.
Personnel recovery forces trained through the full spectrum of personnel recovery capabilities with ground recovery personnel, air assets, Special Forces teams and federal agents. The exercise, conducted May 4-17, included training scenarios throughout Arizona to the coast of California.