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40th HS rescues hiker

The 40th Helicopter Squadron performs a live hoist and stokes litter exercise on the flightline Feb. 10, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The 40th HS is one of the few entities in Montana capable of providing search and rescue with the ability to raise and lower stokes litter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Daniel Brosam)

The 40th Helicopter Squadron performs a live hoist and stokes litter exercise on the flightline Feb. 10, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The 40th HS is one of the few entities in Montana capable of providing search and rescue with the ability to raise and lower stokes litter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Daniel Brosam)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- A UH-1N Iroquois crew assigned to the 40th Helicopter Squadron here rescued an injured male in the Little Belt Mountains near Wheatland, Montana, May 7 at approximately 11:15 a.m.

The rescue marked the 417th save for the 40th HS.

The aircrew consisted of two pilots: Capt. Daniel Trapani and 1st Lt. Kyle Lenz; two special mission aviators: Tech. Sgt. Daniel Marchick and Staff Sgt. Matthew Tidball; and one flight surgeon: Maj. Melonie Parmley.

The aircrew was dispatched after a rescue was requested through the Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The 40th HS was then directly contacted and the rescue mission was approved by Col. David Smith, the 582nd Helicopter Group commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, which the 40th HS falls under.

Unsuccessful rescue efforts were made prior to the request for the 40th to provide medical evacuation support.

“The ground rescue team had horses but they couldn’t get to the survivor because the trees were too dense and the terrain was steep which also prevented them from just carrying him out of there," said Tidball.

The alert crew was notified at approximately 8:20 a.m. and took off at 10:15 a.m. to rescue the male hiker who sustained a severe injury while hiking with friends and needed to receive emergency medical care.

While the search and rescue mission is only a fraction of what the 40th HS is responsible for, they train regularly for these alert calls.

“We are constantly training and practicing and I think that really made a difference because we just went out there and fell into our routine,” said Lenz.

The aircrew worked against a time constraint due to the required conditions for the hover and hoist and weather started to be a concern as well.

“We were seeing the clouds roll over the top of the helicopter and hit the rotor disc and blast down through so we had to look and make sure that we could still make it down the mountain,” said Lenz.

Low ceilings and clouds can cause visibility and safety issues for the aircraft so the crew has to communicate and work together to perform these missions when weather becomes a factor.

According to Lenz, a real-world mission or someone’s life in danger justifies taking increased risks.

The team was able to safely hover, hoist the flight doctor down and hoist both the flight doc and the man up before the weather worsened.

"No one else had the capability to get in there and we were able to," said Lenz. “We were able to successfully get him out of the mountains and it feels awesome to be able to help someone like that.”

At 11:15 a.m., the injured man was hoisted out of the Little Belt Mountains and flown to Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, Montana.