Guard Helicopter Crew Awarded for Saving 6 Lives

Sometimes even first responders can get caught up in the same dangerous predicament as the people they’re trying to help, especially during flash floods.

Four members of the Louisiana Army National Guard were honored last month by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division for their aerial rescue of six people, including the LDWF’s SGT Rusty Perry and Winn Parish Firefighter Buddy King. The men’s boat capsized as they tried to evacuate people from a flooded area in Winnfield, La., on March 10, 2016.

The Guardsmen, CW5 Jack Mucha, CW2 Corey Sayer, SSG Chad McCann and SGT Aaron Adam, all members of the Bayou 69 Black Hawk Helicopter crew, were awarded the Citizens Exceptional Bravery Awards for their efforts.

When Perry and King could not be reached by other vessels or high water vehicles, the Black Hawk crew performed an aerial rescue in a less than ideal spot that required precision hover work, as told by the crew in the video below:

“There was probably only about 10 feet between the power lines and the edge of the trees,” said SSG McCann, whose job it was to lower SGT Adam down to the stranded men. Adding to the pressure was the fact that no one knew whether the power lines were still active, said Pilot CW5 Mucha.

“It was a nail biter for sure,” said CW5 Mucha, whose mind was also on the mission he and the rest of Bayou 69 were originally scheduled to be doing that day – a flyover of a memorial honoring the MOJO 69 crew – four fellow Louisiana Guardsmen and seven Marines – who had been killed in a helicopter crash on March 10 one year prior.

“We did not want to be accident No. 2,” he said.

It was also a close call for Perry and King, who needed immediate medical attention after being stuck in cold water for a few hours, according to COL John Plunkett, who is now Bayou 69’s commanding officer.

At the awards ceremony last month, “The one individual said that he was actually hypothermic, and close to not being able to hold on to the item he was holding on to,” said COL Plunkett. “[The Guardsmen] were pretty much their last hope for getting those guys out of there.”

After safely retrieving the two men, the crew then returned to the area to rescue the two people Perry and King were trying to help, plus two other stranded first responders.

CW5 Mucha said the only comparable mission he could think of was the hoist work and rescues he had done during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The most rewarding mission you can do is doing Medevac, and saving lives in combat and here in the State,” said CW5 Mucha, who has been a pilot since 1980. Mucha said most of his Medevac missions have been along the coastline, “so it was nice to help some people in our local area.”

So if you’re looking for a job with a mission, the Army National Guard offers 130 career choices, and not just in aviation. Check out our job board for more information on careers in administration, military police, infantry, mechanics and maintenance, logistics support, and more. For a complete rundown of the benefits of joining the Guard, contact your local recruiter.

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State Spotlight: South Carolina

Guard Staff Sergeant Saves Lives as a Soldier and a Civilian

SSG Jessica Thibeau, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 59th Aviation Troop Command, observes from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during efforts to fight South Carolina wildfires in November 2016. Photo by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Soldiers join the military for many reasons, including family tradition, stories they’ve seen in the media, or to make their childhood dreams come true.

For South Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. (SSG) Jessica Thibeau, exposure to the military came from all over – a family filled with combat veterans, a community full of Vietnam veterans, and a television show.

“No laughing, but when I was 4 years old I loved a show called ‘Emergency.’ It was based on the first paramedics in the U.S. out in Los Angeles County, California,” said SSG Thibeau.

“That was in 1974,” she added. “There were not any female firefighters back then. My mom, however, never told me that. She always told me I could be whatever I wanted. I actually got a ton of Tonka fire trucks and ambulances that year for Christmas because that is all I wanted. Becoming a combat medic was just a natural progression.”

After having served on active duty and 20 years as a civilian paramedic, in 2005, SSG Thibeau decided to join the Army National Guard, and offer her combined civilian-military experience in trauma response and emergency/critical care to the Guard, which has a dual mission of serving the Nation and responding to State emergencies like floods and fires.

Initially, SSG Thibeau became a combat medic (68W Healthcare Specialist) with the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion. Next, she joined a Medevac unit with Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, also in Maine. She later transferred to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a critical care flight paramedic with the 59th Aviation Troop Command.

Throughout her 18 years of military service, SSG Thibeau has saved numerous lives, including two while serving on the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. 

SSG Thibeau also flew numerous fire containment missions during the Pinnacle Mountain wildfires in Northwestern South Carolina in November 2016, and she has saved countless lives as a paramedic. As a civilian and a Soldier, she exemplifies positivity in her community and serves with dedication and proficiency in the military.

“I do love walking in on someone’s absolute worst day and making it a little, if not a lot, better,” SSG Thibeau said. “This job gives you a positive outlet to get that adrenaline rush while having a positive impact on others.”

“Whether it is saving their home, their loved one having a heart attack, or bringing another Soldier home from combat to their family, there is no greater feeling in the world to me than knowing you made a difference.”

So if you’d like to make a difference in your community, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to search opportunities in fields like medicine, administration, or infantry. Your part-time service comes with many benefits like money for college or vocational school and low-cost health and life insurance. Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

From an original story by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine, 59th Aviation Troop Command, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in April 2017.

 

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Angels On Call

From the jungles of Southeast Asia to the dunes of Afghanistan, medical evacuation aircraft have always been a sign of hope and rescue, even in the darkest hours of combat. Sergeant Cassandra Kennedy, a 68W with the Massachusetts National Guard who spent a yearlong tour in Iraq last year, reveals the specialized training – split-second actions – it takes to succeed as a flight combat medic.

SGT Cassandra Kennedy, Army National Guard[The medical field is] a different realm of the military. You think of the power, might, and strength of the military, but I get to be on the other side of things and help people – keeping my Soldiers safe and healthy.

In the flight medic program, we train in flight simulators. It’s kind of the shell of an aircraft, and it’s set up with a ‘SimMan’ – a mannequin-like machine that can breathe and bleed. You can monitor its heart rate. We run through simulations of the things we would see overseas and what we would have to deal with in the back of an aircraft. It’s basically like working on a patient in the back of a large SUV.

Once you get back to your unit from training, you focus on flying with the crew and working on your crew coordination. Flight medics are all full members of the flight crew. We have to be qualified to do just as much as a crew chief.

When we’re called in for a medevac (medical evacuation), the seriousness of the injury is pretty substantial. In the back of an aircraft, it’s just you. It’s not like a civilian ambulance where you call in to the hospital and talk to a doctor. We have to know what to do by ourselves.

In Iraq, we had operations ready to go 24 hours. In addition to [U.S. troops], we were transporting civil Soldiers, contractors, intercountry nationals that were working from different bases, and a few Iraqi military.

A medevac request comes in on our radios, and we have to be off the ground within 15 minutes – that’s from getting the call, running to the aircraft, and taking off. While we were deployed, our average time company-wide was seven minutes. You drop whatever you’re doing, and you run.

In the air, we’ll coordinate with the medics on the ground and make sure everybody’s ready. We’ll try to land in a base area, but if we couldn’t do that we would land wherever the injury was. Once we land, we want to get the injured people into the aircraft and get them where they need to be as quickly as possible.

The patient would be ready for us – lined up in the LZ (landing zone). We’ll get a quick report from the medic on the ground, roll the people in the aircraft, and take off. That process is maybe less than five minutes.

In the aircraft, we’ll do our full head-to-toe assessment; put in an IV if they need it, hook them up to the monitor, provide fluids, apply a tourniquet – lifesaving measures. We’ll make sure there are not more injuries that weren’t reported. We’re also talking to the medical treatment facility to let them know what they need to do to get ready.

Once we’re landing outside the hospital, they already have a team waiting to help us get stationed at the aircraft. We’ll wheel the patient into the ER and give the doctors a quick report of what we did and what we gave, and then they take over.

 

Story and photo courtesy of GX magazine. GX magazine is an official publication of the Army National Guard.

 

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