The IAF and the Northern Command held a joint exercise last week, in which they practiced aerial evacuation of the injured. 669 Search & Rescue Unit members, Hercules crews and people of the Unit for Cooperation joined forces for one of the most important missions in combat
Shani Poms and Shir Cohen
In a northern part of Israel called Mahanaim, people are familiar with the sounds of takeoff and landing activities of civilian aircraft. That said, last week saw the landing of an IAF Hercules airplane on a quiet landing strip, loaded with ambition and determination. The goal: Evacuating wounded people to medical centers as quickly as possible. This was all part of an exercise held by the Home Front Command in cooperation with the IAF.
“This is one of the transport formation’s abilities. We simulate a scenario in which all northern hospitals are fully occupied and we have to transfer all patients to a different area with the help of the Hercules”, says Major S’, a loading inspector who assisted the evacuation process out of the Hercules’s underbelly. “The Hercules aircraft is capable of containing all sorts of injuries, and alter its inner organization according to necessity. The main challenge is the pace of the evacuation during dangerous times”.
Behind the scenes, members of the cooperation unit who control the exercise linked ground and aerial forces working on the helicopters and planes. When dealing with an aerial evacuation of injured people, things become complicated: people of the cooperation unit have to consider every problem that could arise due to weather changes and other threats, alongside medical experts who make decisions that could be critical to the injured patients.
Before evacuating the wounded into the plane, 669 Search & Rescue soldiers examine the type of injury and severity for every patient. “The aviated rescue team is the only unit in the IDF who is responsible for every airplane or helicopter evacuation”, clarifies N’, one of the unit’s fighters. “The number of patients to evacuate is determined according to the severity of the injuries, and what situation we’re dealing with in reality. During the First Lebanon War, we had to operate in a similar situation to this exercise, and that is the reason we keep training”.