“Most of our training has been to get familiar with the SAR helicopter, the safety equipment used in the helicopter and on the ground, the raising and lowering exercises on the cable system, and to prepare us for an emergency that may dispatch us to an unsafe location to land,” said Case.
The helicopter flew the medical staff to a remote location, lowered the crew, stretcher and dummy by winch, and departed. On the ground, the SAR team simulated a patient recovery situation which concentrated on the process of loading “Jim,” the dummy, on to a stretcher, while ensuring all clips, buckles and straps were secured properly in preparation to be hoisted by the winch.
“We’ve been conducting SAR response training, and patient recovery methods using the winch,” said Mick Gablonski, air crewman with CHC Helicopter. “The winch is a cable attached to the helicopter that hoists or lets down people or equipment. The training allows Marine and Navy medical personnel to respond with us as a part of the SAR crew to safely recover ejected aircrew.”
CHC Helicopter is a civilian company that provides Helicopter Search and Rescue services to RAAF Tindal and the surrounding community.
As the bird returned, it hovered roughly 15 feet off the ground and lowered the winch while one crew member protected the patient from the rotor blast, and the other hooked up to the winch and was hoisted up to the helicopter to guide the stretcher up. The flight surgeon and corpsman followed carrying their medical pack. The stretcher was secured in place as the chopper departed the simulated scene.
“It is important not only for Pitch Black to train both local and foreign forces in all aspects of SAR operations at Tindal,” said Gablonski. “But the integration of forces allows us to ensure all personnel that could respond to an aircraft emergency are trained exactly the same and can work together successfully and safely. Training specifically with the U.S. corpsmen will help bring a familiar face to a stressful situation if we’re ever dispatched to an emergency involving a Marine.”
Training in the unfamiliar rugged Northern Territory environment poses several risks to foreign service members, so having situational awareness of the SAR pilots and air crewman procedures is essential for medical and rescue personnel.
Over the past 10 years, U.S. Marines and Navy medical personnel have trained with the RAAF SAR team in SAR operations for multinational exercises held in the Northern Territory further enhancing an already strong working relationship between allied nations.
“Training with RAAF SAR is an opportunity that we wouldn’t get in the states,” said Case. “But it’s a great way to train and assimilate with our international partners and help provide medical readiness at Pitch Black.”As the thumping of the blades sliced through the air, U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Case, flight surgeon, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Juan Garcia, hospital corpsman assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, were lowered to the ground with a winch during search and rescue training at Exercise Pitch Black 2016, Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, August 16, 2016.