Helicopter Exercise Tests JTF-B Rescue Capabilities

By: Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Alicia Baum, 1st Battalion 228th Aviation Regiment flight paramedic, analyzes the condition of a simulated aircraft casualty during a search and rescue exercise, May 21, 2019, in Comayagua, Honduras. Members from various units on Joint Task Force – Bravo participated in the exercise that simulated a HH-60 Blackhawk crashed during a routine flight carrying personnel. The exercise practiced notification, recall, search and rescue, on-scene medical care, recovery of personnel from low and high angle austere terrain, and medical care once the injured returned to base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.)

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, May 30, 2019 — What started off as a routine passenger transport flight resulted in a search and recovery mission for Joint Task Force – Bravo. The simulated scenario tested the base’s capabilities and procedures during a personnel recovery exercise, here, May 21.

“The entire exercise scenario was that a HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was flying and they had an IFE, or in-flight emergency, which caused dual engine failure,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jesse Soboleski, exercise evaluator. “When this occurred, one of the patients fell from the aircraft into an unknown location and everyone else was still aboard the aircraft when it actually hit the ground.”

Once the exercise commenced, first responders from the 1st Battalion 228th Aviation Regiment and Soto Cano AB responded to the scene to practice their capabilities of first aid and personnel recovery. “Different capabilities were tested, to include the search and rescue team operations from the fire department and the ability to extract personnel from high or low angle austere terrain,” Soboleski explained.

The 1-228 AVN transported members and equipment from the fire department and also provided medics to perform first aid on victims at the accident scene.

“A medic gets onboard the first aircraft and then gets out and starts treatment and triage at the scene,” said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Webb, 1st Battalion 228th Aviation Regiment detachment first sergeant. “We send out the most critical patient first and as the helicopter returns, I keep treating the other patients. I don’t leave till the last patient is off the ground. “

Practicing scenarios like this help members prepare for the worst.

“Its important, especially in this job,” Webb continued. “You will make mistakes and you learn from them during these exercises. When you get out there and it’s the real deal, then you can do your best and give the best to those Soldiers, Airmen, Marine or whomever that needs care.”

The exercise allowed the members to practice life-saving skills that are key to one of JTF – B missions.

“For JTF-B here in Central America, this allows us to go into an unknown situation and be able to execute the mission of saving lives,” Soboleski rationalized. “This directly correlates to humanitarian and disaster relief or humanitarian aid. Being able to go into a civilian population where we don’t know what is going on at the crash site or at the incident site and be able to bring in medical aid, extraction support, and getting them out of a danger zone into a safer area enables us to execute that mission of just helping other human beings.”

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