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Tankers in the sky

By 1Lt. Franois-Xavier Miller
First published in
SFOR Informer#107, February 21, 2001

Doboj - The Blackhawk rotor's blades raise a cloud of dust. As soon as it lands, two 'litters' (stretchers) were immediately brought to the rescue helicopter's door by order of the Medic.
A Danish C-Squadron tank has been blown up by a mine. Two severely wounded men, 1Lt. Bjarne Hundevad and Pfc. Michael Hald had to be rushed to the hospital. Within seconds, the stretchers were loaded, stowed, and Medevac started. But all of this was fortunately just an exercise.
Being the only Cavalrymen to patrol with combat tanks in BiH, the Danes from Nordpol are used to training for any conceivable event. A mine or an accident could badly damage one of their Leopard 1A5, and wound some crew members.
American teams from 57th Med Coy Air Ambulance, based at Eagle Base, near Tuzla, would be these good Samaritans who would come down through the sky to rescue them. Likely rescuers and potential victims must get to know each other and work together. This efficiency is only gained from training, it could just save lives.
Each group discovers the other's equipment. The black bird with a red cross is familiarizing with the white-cross-on-red-background Leopard. 1Lt. Nathan A. Houk and Cw2 Chris Jordan, the pilots, take a close look at the the Danish tank. On their side, the cavalrymen pay respectful attention to the explainations given by Sgt. Richard Swindell, Medic aboard, and by Sgt. Abel Guzman, crew chief. Everything is being reviewed, from the aircraft's main features to the correct way to hold the rescue hoist or to help loading an injuried person. "I'm impressed. They don't have to work around, they can turn it and work on both sides" said Lcpl Tommy Andersen, taking about the 'Carousel', the rotary support for stretches and medical equipment which takes up the cabin.
Sgt. Swindell insists once again on safety measures. "The blades go down to 1.50 m on the front and the rear sides. No one is that small," he explained. "You always approach at right angles to the doors, together and bending your heads."
Demonstration then repetition as shown. Lcpl Willie Pedersen, due to his nearly 2 m. height, has been appointed as a volunteer to pretend to be wounded and to lay down on the stretcher. If it is possible to load Petersen, then any other patient would be no problem!
And what about if the helicopter could not land close to the tank, because of a live minefield for instance ? "We would land on the tank ", answered Sgt Swindell seriously. As a matter of fact, the winching up into the helicopter would be directly carried out a few meters above the standstill armour. The crew even demonstrated landing on the vehicle itself.
At last comes the live reproduction of the exercise ! Four soldiers bending their heads run to the lateral door to load the first stretcher. They come back to pick up a second shaft holding each another by the shoulder. Another trip within the warm blast of the rotor and the Blackhawk takes off. Everyone would know its job, should the need arise.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: US, Denmark
Training and Exercises