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US soldiers rescue 3 injured teens in Alaska

A UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter flies to Forward Operating Base Torkham, March 28, 2012, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
November 07, 2023

United States Army soldiers conducted a successful helicopter rescue of three injured teenagers from Chalkyitsik, Alaska, last week despite facing poor weather conditions and low visibility.

According to the U.S. Army, the soldiers who completed the rescue mission on Oct. 31 were assigned to Charlie Company, 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The Army reported that three civilian teenagers received injuries due to a snowmachine accident near Chalkyitsik. As a result of the serious injuries the teenagers received and the remote location of the incident, Army assistance was requested through the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.

The Arctic Dustoff aeromedical evacuation unit received the rescue assistance request at 9:38 p.m. during a training flight exercise. After returning to Ladd Army Airfield at Fort Wainwright and reconfiguring the helicopter for the rescue of the three teenagers, the Army medical evacuation team departed from the base at 11:22 p.m.

The Army rescue team experienced poor weather conditions, including mixed precipitation and low visibility, after passing the White Mountains; however, the rescue team was able to land at Chalkyitsik airport at 1:00 a.m. to transport the three injured teenagers.

“Here in Alaska, more often than not, there is some type of complication during MEDEVAC calls; this mission was no different,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnathan Horvath, the leading pilot on the mission, said. “The crew worked together, along with various [air traffic control] facilities, to ensure our patients received the medical attention they need.”

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After reaching the Chalkyitsik airport, Staff Sgt. Joseph Uribe, a flight paramedic, assessed the condition of the three injured teenagers before loading each of them onto the helicopter. Roughly 15 minutes later, the rescue team was able to depart with each of the three teenagers and their mothers. Uribe provided medical attention to the injured teenagers as the helicopter transported them to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Uribe explained, “Each mission we launch on comes with its own set of challenges, but thanks to the coordination between Sgt. Perez, our pilots, and myself, we were able to optimize patient treatment and ensure the patients were cared for until they could be transferred to a higher role of care.”

After the helicopter team reached its destination and transported the patients to an ambulance at 2:51 p.m., the three teenagers were taken to the hospital to receive additional medical care.

Maj. Jeff Crook, Charlie Company’s commander, applauded the Army rescue team’s mission, saying, “We at Arctic Dustoff continuously work on improving our medical and flight capabilities for this very purpose. I am proud of our ability to assist the citizens of the state of Alaska on their worst days and proud of our flight crews for their dedication to the same.”