U.S. Army Reserve Offi­cer Training Corps cadets enrolled in the Nursing Summer Training Pro­gram at Womack Army Medical Center learned about HH-60M medi­cal evacuation Blackhawk helicopter operations dur­ing a training session with aviators from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, July 18.

The medevac crew from Company C, 3rd Battal­ion, 82nd Aviation Regi­ment (General Support), showed the cadets, from colleges around the coun­try, the many medical fea­tures inside the cabin of the medevac and how to load patients onto the he­licopter safely.

Maj. Mitzi Fields, the deputy chief of education and staff development at WAMC, helped organize the training for the up­coming nurses.

“As an Army nurse, you don’t always get to learn about medical evacuation procedures,” Fields said. “For some nurses, this is a once-in-a-lifetime expe­rience designed to show them what they might have to, or even want to, do.”

While the exposure may be a once in a lifetime ex­perience for some of the nurses, Staff Sgt. Erin Gibson, the flight medic who instructed the ca­dets, understands that any one of the nurses could be called on to help evacuate a patient.

“During our last deploy­ment to Afghanistan, we started using critical care nurses as flight nurses when we were transferring patients to a higher level of medical care,” Gibson said.

“Many of them had never worked in a medical capac­ity on an aircraft before.”

Gibson began her instruction by showing the medical features of the aircraft and how to perform a patient cold load, when the aircraft is shutdown, and a patient hot load, when the aircraft is on with the rota­ry blades spinning.

During the cold load training, ca­dets were able to practice loading litter patients and carrying the lit­ter away from the

helicopter while the blades were not turning.

For Cadet Emily Lewins, a rising senior at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the exercise empha­sized the teamwork neces­sary when time is of the essence.

“The training gives me more confidence,” said Lewins. “Knowing you can save people’s lives if you work faster as a team is really motivating.”

After loading the pa­tients on to the HH-60’s, the nursing teams were taught to exit the helicop­ter when the blades are turning.

“Holding on to each others’ back is the best and safest way to exit the air­craft,” Gibson said. “That way we know how many Soldiers came into the roto disk and we can make sure that number get away from the aircraft safely be­fore taking off.”

The nurses also learned that they must be as care­ful with the litter when they exit the helicopter as they are when they ap­proach the helicopter.

“I wouldn’t have thought about how important it is to carry the litter hori­zontal to the ground when leaving the helicopter to avoid hitting the rotary blades,” said Cadet Col­leen Vinnett, a rising se­nior at Longwood Univer­sity in Farmville, Va.

After the cadets prac­ticed both cold and hot load procedures, the mede­vac crew demonstrated how the hoist system on the helicopter works.

“It was great to see how they would extract a pa­tient while the aircraft was still in the air,” Vinnett


Of course, any helicop­ter training would not be complete unless the Sol­diers actually make it off the ground. The pilots wrapped up the morn­ing by taking all of the upcoming officers for a

quick spin in the helicop­ter.

The flight was the high­light of the day for Cadet Ashley Olivieri. The ris­ing senior at Pennsylvania State University spent the flight with a smile on her face staring out the open

door of the helicopter.

“That was awesome,” Ol­ivieri

said. “I’ve never flown

in a helicopter before.”

Perhaps one day these nurses will need to re­call their medevac train­ing with the 82nd CAB, performing these critical

missions in life and death situations.

“Once you walk away after evacuating a patient, you have an amazing sense of relief that the patient has made it to the next lev­el of medical care,” Gibson said