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Army aids in aerial evac during North Pole exercise

by Capt. James Bressendorff
Joint Task Force Alaska Public Affairs

5/14/2007 - NORTH POLE, Alaska (AFPN) -- Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews teamed with Airmen and civilian emergency responders May 10 to evacuate simulated victims of a terrorist attack as part of Alaska Shield/ Northern Edge 2007.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation regiment's "Flying Dragons" based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, worked with Air National Guardsmen from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska, and active duty Air Force aircrew from nearby Eielson Air Force Base as part of Alaska Shield/ Northern Edge 2007 -- an exercise designed to test the coordination of federal, state, local agencies during emergencies.

Airmen and Soldiers from Kulis ANG airlifted more than 40 patients following a simulated terrorist attack at the North Pole Refinery Complex. The capabilities of local responders were deliberately overwhelmed so military assets could be used in the rescue, which would be a requirement in a real-world situation.

"We have medical evacuation helicopters on standby 24-seven, 365 days a year," said Lt. Col. Ray Alford, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment commander. "We respond not only to military calls, but also to any civilian emergency medical service calls for assistance - any medevac calls."

At the heart of the 52nd Aviation Regiment's aerial evacuation mission is its flight medic, who can perform actions ranging from setting broken bones to defibrillation.

"I help crew the aircraft and I'm responsible for all the patient care in the aircraft and all the medical equipment," said Sgt. Anthony Marshall, flight medic. "Here in Alaska we cover anything from pregnancies to bear mauling, car accidents and vehicle rollovers.

Being the in-flight medic, however, is only a small portion of Sergeant Marshall's duties. During the rescue, he was also responsible for some elements of visual coordination, ensuring the helicopters didn't collide.

"While we were landing, there were four other aircraft flying overhead,"
said the flight medic. "When we're taking off, we have to look for other helicopters so we don't actually crash into each other and turn a training mission into a real mission," Sergeant Marshall said.

During the exercise, five helicopters were flying at any given time. By communicating with each other, ground technicians and hospital staff, they created a smooth, coordinated effort to evacuate the wounded "victims."

"I thought the coordination went very well." Colonel Alford said. "We had some prior planning to deconflict the other aircraft that would be in the airspace, but as far as the notification process and the EMS channels, we were able to receive the information we needed and launch in a timely manner. Once the exercise started, from our view point, it went very smoothly."

According to the battalion commander, the 52nd Aviation Regiment is an invaluable ally to the Alaskan community - providing fast, responsive support to civil authorities during an emergency.

"Overall, I think we have a good working relationship with both Fairbanks and North Pole and other communities throughout the local area here in Alaska," Colonel Alford said. "The training today also reinforces that relationship so they are more confident in our abilities, our response times, and they are aware of what we can do."

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