Soldiers Transport Stranded Residents to Treatment Facilities
MADISON, Wis. — Soldiers from a Wisconsin Army National Guard medevac unit answered the call for help last month, transporting stranded residents to medical treatment facilities.
The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa notified Wisconsin Emergency Management on Wednesday, July 13, that five members of the tribe living on the Bad River Reservation needed a way to get to their dialysis treatments in Ashland, Wis.
Severe weather, torrential rains and extreme flooding that struck northern Wisconsin the day before had prompted a state of emergency declaration and cut off road access to the reservation, making it impossible for the dialysis patients to travel to medical treatment facilities in Ashland.
Enter the Wisconsin National Guard, who dispatched a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation to the Bad River Casino parking lot, where the dialysis patients were waiting.
Four Soldiers from the West Bend, Wis.-based flight crew responded to the medevac mission, and were grateful for the opportunity to lend a helping hand.
“People were really excited to be able to get the opportunity to help out here, especially on stateside mission where we’re flying all the time,” said Capt. Robert Hofer, the pilot in command.
Hofer noted that over the last few years the Unit has conducted extensive military medevac training in exercises and at places like the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Having the chance to apply those skills on a real-world mission where people were in need was a rewarding experience, he said.
“Personally I think the medevac mission is one of the most noble missions that the Army has,” said Hofer. “So being able to go out there and do it was really great.”
He credited his crew with ensuring the dialysis patients were comfortable.
“Looking in the back of the aircraft and seeing the people get in, you could see they were nervous at first, but the crew members in the back – Staff Sgt. (Paul) Thomas and Sgt. (Jon) Walsh – really made them feel comfortable about flying on the aircraft,” he said. “Our flight medic actually spent a portion of the flight sitting next to one of the ladies who was really scared to fly.”
Within an hour and a half of receiving the mission, the Unit had made two trips to transport all five patients to the airport in Ashland where first responders waited to transport them to the treatment facility.
Bad River Reservation residents were grateful for the Guard’s assistance.
“When I saw that helicopter, I just started crying because I knew that our people who needed dialysis were going to get help,” said Esie Leoso-Corbine, director of social and family services at Bad River.
“It was a relief that they were getting the dire medical attention they needed in order to sustain life,” she added. “So everyone that was standing there, there were tears coming down.”
Fulfilling the medevac mission is at the very core of the National Guard’s unique dual mission as the first military responder in the homeland in times of emergency. The Soldiers who responded to the medevac mission did so in their traditional Title 32 State status – a status unique to the National Guard that allows Soldiers and Airmen to respond immediately to State emergencies.
Original article by Capt. Joe Trovato, Wisconsin Army National Guard, appeared last month in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.