JBER medics, Australian helicopter unit conduct rescue training
By Staff Sgt. Alex Martinez, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
/ Published March 03, 2017
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, ACT, Australia -- Medics assigned to the U.S. Air Force 90th Fighter Squadron participated in helicopter rescue training with members of the Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal helicopter unit Feb. 27, allowing participants the opportunity to strengthen necessary skills to rescue downed pilots in the event of an emergency.
Capt. Paul Ward, the 90th FS flight doctor, and Tech. Sgt. Layla Dispense, the 90th FS Independent Duty Medical Technician, underwent helicopter familiarization and safety training, and practiced winching techniques with a civil contractor helicopter unit assigned to RAAF Base Tindal. The training enhanced the medics’ knowledge and effectiveness should they have to recover a 90th FS F-22 Raptor pilot in need.
“I think today’s training was awesome,” Dispense said. “I’m very grateful to be able to have this training. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and understanding of [the helicopter unit’s] techniques in rescuing a downed pilot.”
Ward explained the rescue process.
“In the event that there was a pilot ejection, we would take a chopper to their location with our medical gear, lower the gear and ourselves to the patient, tend to the patient and get them prepped for evacuation, and winch them up on a stretcher,” Ward said. “In rapid fashion, we would be able to load a patient in need of medical care and transport them to the nearest hospital.”
In a real-world rescue, the most desirable capability for a rescue team would be to land the helicopter near the patient, secure them on a stretcher and load them on to the aircraft, however depending on the terrain, that option isn’t always possible or the safest, which is why the medics train on winching techniques, requiring a patient to be secured on a stretcher and hoisted up to a hovering helicopter.
“If an F-22 pilot ejects, the U.S. medical personnel would be the ones responding so it’s definitely good for them to be comfortable if they need to board our helicopter and respond to a recovery situation,” said Air Crewman Mick Gablonski, the helicopter unit base manager here at RAAF Base Tindal.
The 90th FS F-22s are at RAAF Base Tindal training with RAAF 75 Squadron F/A-18A/B Hornets for Enhanced Air Cooperation exercise activities. EAC is a joint training and exercise initiative under the Force Posture Agreement between the U.S. and Australian governments.
During the exercise activity, Ward and Dispense support the more than 200 U.S. Airmen at RAAF Base Tindal, providing daily medical care and emergency response.
Ward said RAAF Base Tindal members have been very welcoming hosts.
“They have embraced us and, right away, were eager to show us around and show us their techniques and skills,” Ward said. “I’ve been to four or five locations now with the 90th [FS] and the helicopter unit and the RAAF medical personnel have been the most hospitable people I’ve worked with.”
Gablonski highlighted the importance of maintaining interoperability regarding medical evacuation procedures.
“We do training with different medical teams from many different countries and military branches,” Gablonski said. “I think it’s imperative to have those relationships when we conduct bilateral training so that in the event that we need to respond to a rescue, regardless of what service or what country you come from, the training is consistent.”