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    Task Force Tiger pilot lands CASEVAC atop Swedish hospital

    Task Force Tiger pilot lands CASEVAC atop Swedish hospital

    Photo By Capt. Jeffrey Windmueller | Crews from a UH-60L Black Hawk belonging to "Task Force Tiger" return to their...... read more read more

    LINKOPING, SWEDEN

    05.11.2024

    Story by Capt. Jeffrey Windmueller 

    Army Reserve Aviation Command

    JÖNKÖPING, Sweden—In his 18 years as a rotary-wing pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mike Grego had never landed a helicopter on the helipad atop a building.

    Especially not in a foreign country—when a soldier really needed his help.

    “It was everything I wanted all rolled into one,” said Grego, who serves as the standardization pilot for 8-229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, based out of Fort Knox, Ky. “I didn’t want anything bad to happen to someone, but I wanted to have the opportunity to do what I do and help out.”

    Grego and a mixed crew of Army Reserve soldiers from across the United States responded to a call when the 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with multiple NATO allies, participated in a Joint Forcible Entry parachute jump into Hagshult Air Base, Sweden, May 7. The airborne portion kicked off Swift Response, the first NATO exercise in Sweden since its accession in March.

    The emergency medical flight took them from the airfield in southern Sweden to the Linköping University Hospital, a nearly one-hour distance over the forested countryside.

    “I was the last-of-last options,” Grego said.

    But he was prepared.

    Prior to 173rd’s drop into Sweden, the Golf Company, 5-159th General Support Aviation Battalion MEDEVAC pilots and crew of “Task Force Tiger,” a combination of Army Reserve Aviation Command units under the command of Lt. Col. Stephen Morrow, had scouted the flight routes and performed landings at the hospital helipads in Linköping and Jönköping, two major cities within flight distance of the drop zone. Grego, however, did not get the opportunity to fly that mission.

    The next day, Task Force Tigers’ key leaders briefed plans and contingencies with 11th Airborne, 173rd, and NATO allies from Hungary, Italy and Spain.

    The main plan: Task Force Tiger would have four HH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawks on hand to transport as many Soldiers as they could fit into their aircraft.

    The contingency: ground transportation and Grego’s crew.

    “Once they ran the numbers and realized they could have an overwhelming amount of MEDEVAC lifts just based off a previous jump, there could be the need for a CASEVAC operation,” Grego said.

    MEDEVAC—a military acronym for “Medical Evacuation”—is the movement of injured personnel using transportation and personnel specified for medical needs. An ambulance, for example, has medical supplies and emergency technicians for sustaining a patient en route to a center with a higher level of medical care.

    CASEVAC—or “Casualty Evacuation”—is the use of a non-medical transport for someone injured and does not always require a medical professional on board.

    While Grego has had experience as a MEDEVAC pilot in the past, having once served with 7-158th GSAB in Los Alamitos, Calif., his UH-60L was not retrofitted with the monitors, stretchers and all medical capabilities of the other HH-60 models. And he had not fulfilled the role of a MEDEVAC pilot in years.

    “I was nervous for sure, even when I did it just in training,” Grego said. “Any time you are called in a MEDEVAC, you have to take a couple of breaths and slow down.”

    During 173rd’s jump, his ears perked when a radio call informed the Tactical Operations Center that one of the four MEDEVAC helicopters had issues early in its take-off procedures and would need to remain at the airfield.
    It was his crew’s turn to move fast.

    “When you see others more nervous than you, it actually calms you down,” Grego said. “You have to make sure they are prepared to go.”

    The eclectic team of professionals came from all ends of the United States. ARAC’s Maj. Mark Oherrick, Flight Nurse Practitioner, and 8-229th co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rashaun Carter came from Fort Knox. The crew chiefs Sgt. Skylar Ashley and Spc. Abdiel Rodgriguez-Gonzalez, are from Alpha Company, 2-135th GSAB out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Meanwhile, Sgt. Kira Shoemaker, a critical care flight paramedic from Golf Company, 5-159th GSAB drills out of MacDill AFB, Fla.

    “That’s how we train in the Army Reserve and for combat,” said Morrow. “We are here supporting our allies, coming from all across the country to work together.

    “We hold ourselves to the standard; And Chief Warrant Officer 4 Grego demonstrates the true professionalism and dedication of our Soldiers in the Army Reserve—always prepared, always ready.”

    As soon as he was told he would be a back-up to the MEDEVAC helicopters, Grego did all the research he could—studying satellite imagery, approaches to the helipads and remembering his training as a pilot.

    “I’ve got a lot of experience landing in a lot of places, I knew what to expect,” he said “Landing to a pinnacle is essentially the same thing, whether it is landing atop a mountain or to the top of a building.”

    He could also be prudent in his controls. While the 173rd Soldier’s life was not in danger, he had suffered an eye injury that medical professionals had determined needed immediate medical care at a higher level than they would be able to give in the field.

    “Time could be a factor and the closest eye specialty center was over two hours by ground,” said Oherrick, who received the early reports from a casualty collection point on the drop zone. “We agreed expedited air transport was preferred, and in this case CASEVAC with 8-229 was our only option.”

    After the bandaged Soldier was escorted into his helicopter, Grego and Carter received their briefing: take it easy, no sudden movements that could jeopardize the Soldier’s eyesight or possible concussion.

    When the crew landed and medical personnel stepped off to assist, Grego and his co-pilot were able to snap a selfie on the rooftop, just as the sun began to set late over the northern European backdrop.

    The skies began to turn a vibrant violet, burning red at the edges of the clouds floating above the cityscape.

    “I didn’t think about it until we pulled up to the aircraft, but I sent one guy to go get NVGs (night-vision goggles),” Grego remembered. “It was a last-minute call and ended up being pretty necessary for our flight back.”

    In the end, the entire operation landed smoothly.

    “We had done well, I think we were all pretty proud,” Grego said.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.11.2024
    Date Posted: 05.11.2024 08:41
    Story ID: 471027
    Location: LINKOPING, SE
    Hometown: FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY, US

    Web Views: 489
    Downloads: 0

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