Story by Capt. Alan Moss
11th Aviation Command
Aviators and Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st of the 214th General Support Aviation Battalion (B/1-214th GSAB) rescued a 27 year old female climber who had fallen ill with convulsions/possible seizures at about 12,500 feet while mountain climbing on Mount Rainier on Wednesday, May 28.
Pilots, CW4 Rich Bovey and CW3 Darrick Nelson, their crew, Air Force Parachute Rescue Jumpers (PJ’s) and a military physician from Madigan Army Hospital departed Gray Army Airfield on Joint Base Lewis McChord at approximately 10:00 a.m. to the rescue location in a CH-47D ‘Chinook’ helicopter.
The helicopter crew hoisted the two PJ’s down to the surface in the vicinity of the ill climber and then circled while the PJ’s secured and evaluated the climber. Once the climber was securely placed in a litter for transport, the helicopter returned and hoisted the patient onboard.
The pilots had concerns with the weather at the rescue site. The Air Force personnel walked from the rescue site down to the Camp Muir base camp while the aircraft safely rushed the climber to Madigan Army Medical Center Emergency Room.
“Each rescue provides us with a strong sense of accomplishment,” Bovey said.
The Army Reserve pilots train annually with the dedicated rangers of the National Park Service and the Air Force PJ’s for this difficult mission. The Army Reserve helicopters and highly trained pilots and crew provide the National Park Service with unique capabilities that are extremely valuable to saving lives on the mountain.
“The National Park Service looks at us like a tool in their toolbox,” Bovey said.
Bravo Company, is an Army Reserve aviation unit that falls under the 11th Theater Aviation Command, headquartered at Fort Knox, Ky. Bravo Company and the National Park Service have partnered together to save lives on Mount Rainier for almost 15 years. During that time, Bravo Company’s missions have resulted in the successful rescue of over 75 injured or at risk civilians. Without a high altitude rescue asset many of these individuals would have certainly perished on Mount Rainier.
Bravo Company assumed the Search and Rescue (SAR) mission on 15 July 1998 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In October of 1998 the unit conducted a month long SAR qualification event that qualified the first crews for the 1999 season. SAR training continued in the spring of 1999 with A Company conducting the first actual SAR mission in May of 1999. The 1999 season had seven actual SAR missions which ranged from emergency resupply operations to live hoist rescues.
B 1-214th has provided continuous service on Mount Rainier (while not deployed) since that time. There are an average of five actual SAR missions every year.
The SAR mission provides a valuable resource to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest. More importantly it provides real world experience that teaches fundamentals necessary for success in current full spectrum operations to the Aviators and crew members of Bravo Company, 1-214th GSAB. The lessons of power management, hazardous terrain negotiation, and mountain weather interpretation have paid dividends in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and will continue to do so in future military operations.