MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Snow flew in white swirls everywhere as the Black Hawk helicopter came in for its landing.
Four Marines took off toward the landing zone, sprinting toward the waiting flight crew with stretcher in hand, a simulated wounded Marine stretched out on top of it.
Marines with Fox and Weapons Companies, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, completed a medical evacuation exercise at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., April 5.
Platoon sergeants, squad leaders and junior Marines all practiced both casualty evacuations and calling in aircraft for medical evacuations.
“If we get taken out of the fight, somebody else has to be able to do it,” said Sgt. Jared Barnard, joint terminal attack controller, 2/7. “That includes the junior Marines because there are times squad leaders can get hit.”
The Marines were briefed on in-air evacuation procedures by the helicopter’s crew and the medical personnel who would also be flying in. The birds didn’t leave the ground until the Marines fully understood the basic operations and movements of the helo, how to safely approach the aircraft and how to properly handle the stretcher/casualty combination.
“Casualties can hit anyone,” said Cpl. Dakota Moss, team leader, Company F, 2/7. “You have to be able to fill in and roll with it.”
The Marines then experienced first-hand how an evacuation works and how to lift a Marine onto a helicopter without it ever having to land. This keeps the crew as safe as possible, and gives the casualty the highest chance of survival, during an evacuation when the area is still under attack by enemy troops.
The Black Hawk lifted off and circled the area. The Marines called in the the landing zone brief, and the helicopter got into position for its landing.
Once the Marines got their casualty safely onboard, the crew lifted off and again circled the area once before landing to drop off their volunteer casualty and wait for the next group of Marines to try the technique.
“They got some education on what the aircrafts are capable of and the environment it could land in, especially since it was snowing,” said Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Ruidiaz, joint terminal attack controller, 2/7.
Once the group mastered landed evacuations, they practiced lifting casualties off the ground while the Black Hawk hovered overhead. A large, yellow hook was lowered from the helicopter, and the Marines strapped their casualty in before the flight crew hoisted him up.
The helo took another trip around the area and repeated the cycle.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” said Moss, one of the Marines who volunteered to play a casualty and be hoisted up in the hook. “It kind of gave me a heads-up for what is to come if the situation presented itself.”