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