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Training prepares ‘Yakima Dustoff’ for Civilian Mountain Rescue Operations

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Pilots, flight paramedics and crew chiefs assigned to U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment and civilian volunteers from Central Washington Mountain Rescue conducted medical evacuation hoist training at the Yakima Training Center on June 7.

The unit, part of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and nicknamed Yakima Dustoff, provides medical evacuation coverage for thousands of Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord training at YTC each year. In addition, the detachment works with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Department and civilian volunteers to provide medical evacuation coverage to the nearby mountain and natural areas.

“USAAAD possesses unique skills and resources that are not available in the local area,” said Maj. Brad Kistler, USAAAD commander and Bay City, Texas, native. “Additionally, the cross training in both rescue operations and medical training are invaluable to enhancing the knowledge base of the unit’s flight paramedics and pilots.”

Volunteers from Central Washington Mountain Rescue, CWMR, have trained with USAAAD numerous times, but this was their first time being lowered and raised from an aircraft via the hoist system.

“Cooperative training with the various rescue agencies equates to a win-win setting,”


“Cooperative training with the various rescue agencies equates to a win-win setting,” said Bill Hatch, CWMR president. “Utilization of available resources benefits those whom we serve. It only stands to reason that if we potentially will serve together that we must train together.”

CWMR is a volunteer organization that works with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Department to assist with emergencies in the nearby area, which includes Mount Adams, the second-highest mountain in the state.
“With the Army's help, the capabilities of Central Washington Mountain Rescue are established for specific responses, enhanced and made readily available, which are all necessary to complete search and rescue missions of varied types in the Cascades and where mutual aid is requested,” said Marty Lentsch, CWMR training coordinator.

Yakima County Sheriff’s Department personnel were also present at the training, and they provide oversight and coordination for rescues.

“It is tremendous to have this incredible tool available,” said Yakima County Sheriff Brian Winter. “Our partnership with Dustoff provides Yakima County with a short-notice, all-weather, high-altitude, 24-hour hoist capability that saves lives.”

The training also helped the Soldiers of USAAAD to practice their skills, and to ensure civilian volunteers were prepared to work with the Army for real-world rescues.

“The benefits of this training is that it will facilitate getting the civilian rescue personnel to the lost or injured hiker quicker than to hike to their point,” said Sgt. 1st Class Alexis Marulanda, USAAAD first sergeant and Piscataway, New Jersey, native. “Also, it will get them to the area that might not be accessible by foot. They are also being training on SKED operations, which will further assist the medic and crew chief if they are not able to get to the patient themselves and have to rely on rescue team for the packaging and extraction.”

While the training focused on the important mission of rescuing civilians in the local area, it also helps to prepare USAAAD’s Soldiers for combat operations.

“This is a skill that is very necessary for any future deployments to areas of operations that involve mountainous terrain and will make these soldiers an asset to that unit,” said Marulanda.

The continued partnership between the military, law enforcement and civilian volunteers has made the citizens of Yakima County and the surrounding areas safer.

“Civilian mountain rescue members and active-duty Army personal were and are able to train together for a common goal,” said Sheriff Winter. “Truly, this opportunity will have and is having a far reaching impact within our community.”

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