US Army, September 23, 2014 - GRAFENWOEHR, Germany by Staff Sgt Coltin Heller - The blades spun slowly at first, then faster until they become a blur. The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter rose from the ground as the air crew assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment prepared for hoist operations, among their first since relocating from Landstuhl to their new home here.
The crew flew two iterations, flying as they would in combat, banking sharply and using trees to mask their approach. Nearing their objective, the medic hooked herself to the hoist with assistance from the crew chief.
Company C, “Dustoff,” recently moved from Landstuhl to Grafenwoehr to better assist and focus on missions at the Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area and surrounding areas.
“It’s part of the bigger plan of consolidating forces here in Germany,” said company commander Capt. Matthew Clark on the unit’s move. The unit’s primary mission is to support the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas by providing aerial medical evacuation and hoist assets.
“It enables us to specifically focus on missions out here instead of traveling to the Grafenwoehr Training Area and Hohenfels Training Area.”
The air crew were conducting medical evacuation procedures and hoist operations Sept. 20 to showcase their capabilities to Bavarian emergency medical services and the German Red Cross.
Aircraft crew chief Sgt. Brandon Sorrell guided the helicopter to a hover over a simulated casualty, lowering Sgt. Francesca Salinas, a flight medic with Company C, to the ground where she attached the hoist to the patient.
“Once I’m on the ground, I get with the medic who is there to see what kind of interventions he had done and that the patient is strapped in and hooked up correctly,” Salinas said. “I signal to my crew chief to pick up the patient.”
After loading the simulated casualty, the pilot completed another circuit returning to collect Salinas. After the iterations the aircrew practiced slope landings — another critical skill used by medevac pilots.
“Live hoist operations are one of our critical tasks that we must be able to perform in the event we are called for a real-world medevac and we are unable to have a suitable landing area — we have the capabilities of lowering a medic to the injured person,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Herlt, a pilot assigned to Company C.
“We had some of our German partners here witnessing us do these iterations today,” said Herlt, “They were out here today to get a better understanding of our capabilities in terms of a medevac platform. And that can relate to their day-to-day operations.”
Company C underwent a transformation as part of their move to Grafenwoehr, going from 109 Soldiers to 46, and retaining six of the company’s original 15 aircraft.
The unit made the move to Grafenwoehr this past summer to be closer to its medical evacuation mission at Hohenfels, and thereby reduce temporary duty costs, time away from home for personnel, and wear and tear on equipment, according to U.S. Army Europe.
Additionally, the move from Landstuhl has proven beneficial to both Soldiers and their German partners. Now Company C is working with real-world partners in the same airspace they’ll be conducting real-world emergencies.
“We work with the Germans regularly. It’s something we’re trying to get incorporated into the unit. We’re trying to mesh with the environment we’re in, so we can become part of the community and not just the annoying helicopter flying overhead,” said Clark.
The “Dustoff” aircrew, now stationed at Grafenwoehr, stands trained and ready to assist U.S. and international forces. The crew are becoming experts in the same airspace they’ll be operating.
“If the call comes in, then we execute,” Herlt said. “Our German partners know that it’s a resource they can potentially use. Now in the future when they contact certain agencies, they know we are an asset they can use.”