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Wed, Aug 03, 2005

US Helicopter Crew Rescues Two Wounded Afghans

Mission Of Mercy

A combat search and rescue crew rescued two Afghans who had been wounded by a mortar attack on a Coalition base northeast of Kandahar on July 28th.

The two -- an adult and a 12-year-old boy -- were brought to the local base set up by US Army soldiers who had gained the trust of the villagers.

Because the village is 8,000 feet into the mountains and the sun had set, the only option for immediate medical evacuation was a US Air Force HH-60G Pavehawk combat search and rescue crew from Kandahar Airfield.

"Because of the Pavehawk's capabilities, it can fly during periods of very low illumination," said US Air Force Capt. Chris Roness, a watch supervisor in US Central Command's Joint Search and Rescue Center. He is deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, WA. "They fly when it's too dangerous for conventional medevac."

Helicopters have to push their limits at that altitude, he said, adding that the pitch-black darkness without moonlight would have compounded the risks for other rescue options. HH-60G crews have night-vision goggles, infrared lighting and a forward-looking infrared system that enhance night operations.

"These guys did it like it was old hat," Roness said.

Minutes after getting the job, two helicopters standing alert took off from Kandahar, each crewed by a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and two pararescuemen.

Search-and-rescue crews stand continual 24-7 alert to respond to any situation, Roness said.

The mortars had taken out the landing zone at the base, so ground forces secured an alternate site. It took only 10 minutes to load the two patients and one of the boy's parents onto the helicopter. The pararescuemen on board tended to the patients during the flight.

"Their unique rescue qualifications make them ideally suited for these high-risk medevac missions," said US Air Force 1st Lt. Jonathan Harmon, a combat rescue officer deployed from Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. "In layman's terms, they are paramedics, but they're trained in field trauma and surgical techniques above and beyond the normal paramedic. They're combat trauma specialists."

Within an hour the patients and crew had landed at Kandahar Airfield for treatment at the medical facility there. The patients have since been released.



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