NAS China Lake according to the Rocketeer II
Air Medals presented to Search and Rescue team
The Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE was presented recently with Air Medals for their handling of a search and rescue mission in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains on April 2nd, according to the Rocketeer II. The medals were awarded for outstanding performance during an air mission and were presented at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake. The mission had been performed at the highest elevation rescue mission ever conducted. The rescue mission took place in Hume Lake California where the crew was attending a California Emergency Management Conference. The call came in from the Inyo County Sherriff's Office at about 6 p.m., reporting that a horseman had been severely injured and needed to be taken to a hospital.
The VX-31 crew was flying its MH-60S helicopter for the first time and was able to reach the mountain within 25 minutes, just at dusk. The density altitude was 12,800 feet, and the landing zone was on the very upper edge of what the helicopter's maximum operating altitude. The team had to traverse on foot with over 60 pounds of medical equipment before reaching the man and securing him in a C-collar and on a stretcher. The survivor was then loaded and flown back to China Lake. Lieutenant Commander Ken Gilbert described the experience, "It was the most challenging flight I've ever done. It was quite a feat for the crew. It took every one of us to make it happen." Captain Paul Sohl, Naval Test Wing Pacific commander of the Air Medical presentation added, "This is not a common occurrence. It was an unbelievable performance by the crew. Everybody did their part." The Air Medal was created in 1942 and a meritorious achievement award for those participating in aerial flight. All crew members were honored for their individual parts in the rescue.