HomeNewsArticle Display

Minot rescue crew saves two motorists

Capt. Matthew R. Sutliff, 1st Lt. Kyle B. Nelson, Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Fifield and Staff Sgt. Michael R. Wright are the 54th Helicopter Squadron crew members responsible for the successful search and rescue of two people in Savage, Mont. In Eastern Montana, an ice flow had caused the river to overrun its banks, trapping the two individuals in the bed of their truck. Rescue workers were on the scene, but unable to get to the stranded individuals due to large chunks of ice in the water. Both individuals were hoisted from the bed of their truck and carried to safety. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan)

Capt. Matthew R. Sutliff, 1st Lt. Kyle B. Nelson, Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Fifield and Staff Sgt. Michael R. Wright are the 54th Helicopter Squadron crew members responsible for the successful search and rescue of two people in Savage, Mont. In Eastern Montana, an ice flow had caused the river to overrun its banks, trapping the two individuals in the bed of their truck. Rescue workers were on the scene, but unable to get to the stranded individuals due to large chunks of ice in the water. Both individuals were hoisted from the bed of their truck and carried to safety. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) --  Members of the 54th Helicopter Squadron responded to a search and rescue request involving two men trapped in the bed of their truck in Savage, Mont., when an ice flow caused the river to overrun its banks, March 10.

At approximately midnight the crew received a phone call from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center requesting a hoist equipped aircraft to respond to the scene.

Rescue workers from the local area had responded to the scene but were unable to get to the stranded people due to the large chunks of ice in the water. Additionally, the situation was further compounded by an ice flow upstream on the verge of breaking free.

The Minot Air Force based aircrew who responded to the scene had just concluded a night vision goggle flight and was preparing to turn over their duties for the night and return to base when the call came in.

"Two Security Forces members walked into our squadron and told us that there had been a request for a search and rescue," said Capt. Matthew Sutliff, 91st Missile Wing chief of flight safety. "My co-pilot and two flight engineers jumped into their flight suits, and we responded to the scene."

As Sutliff confirmed the request, his flight engineer readied the aircraft double checking fuels supplies, conducting pre-flight checks and ensuring the safety of the hoist to be used in the rescue efforts.

"Kudos to our maintenance guys," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Fifield, 54th HS enlisted aircrew member. "I ran to the hangar in my pajamas and slippers after we got the call that said we were going to do this. They didn't even think twice about it. They dropped what they were doing and started prepping the aircraft, while I ran upstairs to put my gear on. By the time I got back to tell them to tow it outside they already had it on the pad and were fueling it."

As the aircraft was being prepared for flight, 1st Lt. Kyle Nelson, 54th HS co-pilot, was running mission planning, drawing the lines on the map for the flight course and determining flight time and refueling locations.

"I have only been flying for six months out of the training environment," said Nelson. "This was my first search and rescue mission, but I didn't really think about that ... I just focused on what needed to get done."

The planning process before takeoff took approximately one hour from the time that the call was received. Once the crew was in the air it took them just under an hour to reach the site.

"It felt like laying out our plans took an eternity on the ground, but once we did step into our aircraft, it was reassuring to know that we were properly prepared to complete the mission and confront any complications that might arise," said Sutliff.

Upon arriving on scene, the crew was greeted by the sight of two individuals stranded in the center of the flood waters, standing in the bed of their truck as frigid water rushed by threatening to sweep away their vehicle and engulf them.

"The most important part of missions like this is to plan for the unexpected," said Sutliff. "Snags will inevitably arise, but it is up to us as a team to find fast solutions and overcome them without compromising the mission."

Sutliff initiated the first hover, holding the aircraft in place and fighting against the winds and over the rushing water as Fifield leaned out of the aircraft, holding himself in place as he began to lower the hoist.

"My co-pilot and I had to be careful to fix our vision on a stable object in order to stay in position, at the same time Tech. Sgt. Fifield was giving me direction and also instructing the first survivor on how to use the hoist," said Sutliff.

The first hoist was conducted from approximately 65 feet above the rushing waters and took just under 25 minutes. At this point, both men had been stranded 510 yards from shore for approximately five hours.

"It sounds weird, but you just focus on your training - focus on what you have to do," said Staff Sgt. Michael Wright, 54th HS enlisted aircrew member. "You can't let anything else get in the way of completing the mission."

After the first survivor was secured in the aircraft, rescue of the second individual began. Sutliff relinquished control of the helicopter to his co-pilot as Wright took over for Fifield.

The enlisted aircrew members were constantly scanning the aircraft as well as the condition of the survivors, ensuring that they were a safe distance from the aircraft during the lift, and that they were able to safely board. With Wright's assistance, Nelson was able to lift the second man to safety.

The team transported both survivors to the nearby Sidney Richland Municipal Airport where emergency responders were standing by.

"It was amazing," said Fifield. "I couldn't sleep for a long time after landing knowing that we had been able to save the lives of those two men.

The rescue effort was a success due to a solid, unified team, said Sutliff. It was a testament to their near countless hours of training.

"When we were called into action my team was able to successfully come together to complete the mission and save lives," said Sutliff. "I couldn't be more proud of what they were able to do, and of the fact that we put our training to use and made a real difference in the lives of these two men."

 

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @ScreechTheEagle: This happened today! It was an honor and a privilege to fly alongside @ActingSecAF touring dc and learning about the…
#Watch this video to learn more about the new guidance on transferring GI Bill benefits. The changes go into effec… https://t.co/1GCu0VW4QW
RT @USAFCENT: #Airpower, it’s what we do! Thank you Royal #AirForce and @IAFsite for a great exercise! Read about #TriLightning for yoursel…
#DYK, @Hanscom_AFB #Airmen recently installed a Common Data Logger to translate information from different sensors… https://t.co/uXADy7pgUQ
#Watch this video to learn more about the new guidance on transferring GI Bill benefits. The changes go into effec… https://t.co/Dh6scAxQ6Q
RT @AirForceCE: Good luck to Team #AirForce and our CE #WarriorAirmen! Participating in this year's @WarriorGames are Capt (Ret.) Lawrence…
#DYK #Airmen & 12 #F35 from @HAFB deployed to Europe in May as part of a theater security package & have forward de… https://t.co/Dwohj7Tus8
@GenDaveGoldfein met w/air chiefs from 21 nations across the Americas last week. Click here for more info about his… https://t.co/OP0U2gst8r
RT @WarriorCare: We are halfway through @warriorgames It’s Day 5 & Rowing 🚣‍♀️ will be introduced as we continue Archery 🏹& WCBB 🏀prelims.…
RT @HQ_AFMC: We're welcoming the next generation of @usairforce civilians today at @wpafb as part of the more than 200 across AFMC in the P…
This GRILL is not for summer cookouts! @AFResearchLab Gaming Research Integration for Learning Laboratory (GRILL) r… https://t.co/vApEWwL9QZ
Giant news for @KIRTLAND377ABW, for @AFResearchLab as well as the larger #AirForce. THOR is here and hammering down… https://t.co/O5aoDOPNLO
RT @ActingSecAF: .@EsperDoD, the #USAF looks forward to working with you in your new role as the Acting Secretary of Defense. We will conti…
RT @AFSpace: Today is LAUNCH day! The @DeptofDefense Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, managed by @AF_SMC, is targeting launch at 11:30…
For the first time outside the U.S., #Norwegian & #USAF F-35 Lightning II maintainers worked together on an America… https://t.co/Xr8urRRq5N
RT @AF_SMC: The 3700 kg Integrated Payload Stack (IPS) for #STP2 has been completed! Have a look before it blasts off on the first #DoD Fal…
RT @AFResearchLab: Hanging out with cool kids like @HQ_AFMC at #NASASocial. 📸👇 https://t.co/7S00xr4GMu
RT @AFEnergy: If you don't measure progress, you can't affect change. #FuelMoreFight #MondayMotivation https://t.co/80sg3un0ov