Fairchild helicopter pilot wins AETC award

Fairchild helicopter pilot wins AETC award

11-Feb-2013 Source: US Air Force

A helicopter pilot from the 36th Rescue Flight was awarded the Air Education and Training Command Aviator Valor Award for the year 2012.

Capt. Ashly Barnes, the standardization and evaluation liaison officer, 36th Rescue Flight, distinguished herself as a pilot during a mission to save the life of a United States Air Force survival student who suffered a severe head injury.

“It’s a bittersweet business because we never want to have to search for a missing person or medically evacuate an injured student, but that’s what we’re here for,” said Barnes.

On Aug. 10, a 26-year-old Airman in training to be a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist tripped, fell over a log and struck his head on the ground. He vomited and became lethargic and confused.

Due to the mountain’s high density altitude and the nature of the medical evacuation, the risk for this mission was assessed as high. Barnes and her crew had to be hastily recalled to do the rescue.

Flying at maximum airspeed, the crew arrived on scene within 20 minutes. The student, located at about 6,000-feet elevation, could not be hoisted alone because of his deteriorating condition.

As the patient was being lifted, the helicopter descended toward the trees. Barnes skillfully walked the aircraft forward, to keep her survivors safely suspended over the trail surrounded by 100-foot trees.

“We learn a lot from all of our missions and we are always tailoring our training so we’re better prepared for the next one,” said Barnes.

The Minnesota native said she didn’t always want to fly, but became a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter pilot after she graduated from the Air Force Academy.

“I enjoy what I do,” said Barnes. “We have the most diverse Huey mission in the Air Force here at Fairchild Air Force Base.”

Barnes said she’s honored to win this award, but that every mission they accomplish is a team effort and in her eyes, the entire rescue flight and 336th group won this award.

According to her award package, Barnes performed 40 days of MEDEVAC alert during eight temporary duty assignments, totaling 271.2 flight hours for the year. She has also trained more than 4,900 SERE students and 23 SERE specialist training candidates.

The RQF also assists with civil search and rescue, hoists, rappelling, parachute operations and other aircrew proficiency training to maintain mission readiness.

“Captain Barnes’ determination and hard work enabled her to upgrade from a co-pilot to an instructor pilot within a single year,” said Maj. Matthew Johnson, the 36th RQF commander. “Such a feat is rarely accomplished and then only by the best of pilots.”

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