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    Marine Reserve training turns into real-life rescue



    Story by Lance Cpl. Frans Labranche 

    Marine Forces Reserve

    LANCASTER, Calif. – A group of Reserve Marines starting their annual training in California found themselves taking part in a real-life medical evacuation on the face of the United Sates' highest peak near Sequoia National Park, March 23.

    Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-769 came to the rescue of an injured hiker who fell 1000 feet down an ice chute on Mt. Whitney late March 22. Civilian rescue crews were able to relocate the hiker to a landing zone set up on the mountain, but there were no helicopters available to make the rescue.

    Nearby, HMH-769 was in its first day of training and were asked by the California Air Guard if they could provide aircraft for the delicate mission since they were practicing confined area landing in the vicinity. Both the Guard and the California Highway Patrol were unable to make the rescue because of restrictions about flying at night, but aided in direction of the effort.

    The height and weather played a large roll in the rescue effort as well. Mt. Whitney is 14,505 ft above sea level at its peak and the hiker was only able to be moved to 12,700 ft where the temperature was a cold 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

    When the two helicopters arrived at the scene at 1:30 am, one circled over head while the other made an uneventful landing in the tight landing zone. The aircrew of the grounded helicopter worked quickly to move the hiker to the vehicle while the pilot kept power on the roter blade to keep the helicopter from sinking into the snow.

    "The climbers were easy to spot on night vision goggles with their helmet lights turned on," said Lt. Col. Troy Fuller, pilot of the landing helicopter. "On short final we decided to transfer controls since the other pilot had better reference points, rock outcroppings, on the left side of the aircraft, in case we got into a white out situation with the snow."

    Once down, the team had to work quickly.

    "From there it was a matter of getting the patient loaded and the rescue team with the other climbers and equipment on board," said Fuller. "They used one of our litters since they didn't have a backboard for the patient. Fortunately, the conditions were perfect.

    Once the injured hiker and the rescue team were aboard the helicopter, they returned to a small airport where the hiker was transitioned to a medical helicopter and flown to an area hospital.

    "This mission went entirely as it was planned and briefed," said Col. Brian Phillips. "My aircrew were all professionals, with the pilots being highly experienced and all veterans of deployments to Afghanistan ...and thus high altitude operations. It was a great way to start off our annual training and a very motivating event for the entire aircrew as well as the squadron."

    Maj. Theodore Martin, Maj. Troy Fuller, Maj. Don White, Capt. Jodi Maroney, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jonathon Fifer, Lance Cpl. Jonathan Bush and Lance Cpl. Tyler Johnson were on the aircrews that made the rescue on Mt. Whitney a success.

    The hiker, who has not been identified, was stable in an intensive care unit as of late March 23.



    Date Taken: 03.23.2008
    Date Posted: 03.27.2008 14:54
    Story ID: 17825
    Location: LANCASTER, US

    Web Views: 618
    Downloads: 533