‘Lonestar Dustoff’ aviators rescue Soldier from Gila National Forest

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnny Pickett, right, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, one of the pilots from the Gila National Forest, N.M., rescue mission, stands next to the nose of a HH-60L Black Hawk helicopter. The special systems of the aircraft were used to help locate a Soldier who had been missing for two days during a hunting trip. Photo by Capt. David M. Marshall, 2nd Bn., 501st Avn. Regt., CAB, 1st AD.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnny Pickett, right, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, one of the pilots from the Gila National Forest, N.M., rescue mission, stands next to the nose of a HH-60L Black Hawk helicopter. The special systems of the aircraft were used to help locate a Soldier who had been missing for two days during a hunting trip. Photo by Capt. David M. Marshall, 2nd Bn., 501st Avn. Regt., CAB, 1st AD.

By Capt. David M. Marshall, 2nd Bn., 501st Avn. Regt., CAB, 1st AD:

The Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss has a vast array of capabilities. One of the brigade’s specialized missions is medical evacuation, or medevacs.

Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, were called into action when a Soldier got lost in the Gila National Forest, N.M. The “Lonestar Dustoff” Company demonstrated Nov. 13, they were ready to spring into action when they received a call to help locate a missing Soldier who was on a hunting trip.

While out driving through the Gila National Forest, a Fort Bliss Soldier got his vehicle stuck in a ravine. The search had been ongoing and included elements of the Civil Air Patrol, New Mexico State Police, and additional Soldiers from Fort Bliss. The situation was becoming desperate because no contact had been made with the service member. Nov. 12 The Lonestar Dustoff Company was alerted and asked to join in the search and rescue because of their expertise.

The standard training flight scheduled for Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joshua Marshall, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnny Pickett, Sgt. Christopher Anzaldua and Spc. Aaron Himan was redirected to New Mexico. With the sun already set, the aircrew used night vision goggles and the forward looking infrared red camera, organic to the CAB’s HH-60L Black Hawks. After three hours of searching, the crew spotted a set of tail lights miles off in the distance. They used the aircraft’s FLIR camera to get a better look, and headed toward the vehicle. Upon arrival, they positively identified the missing Soldier, but they were unable to land because of the forest’s terrain. The aircrew hovered over a clearing, lowering Anzaldua utilizing the helo’s hoist. Anzaldua safely touched down, secured the Soldier, and his two dogs, and they were hoisted aboard the Black Hawk with Anzaldua assisting.

The aircrew conducted refuel operations  and flew to an El Paso hospital were the Soldier was admitted for observation. The aircrew, Soldier and his two canines, returned safely to civilization. Mission accomplished.

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