'That Others May Live': Training key in military's lifesaving rescue of 3-year-old

  • Published
  • By Andrea Jenkins
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

The 347th Rescue Group’s dedication to rigorous training and their commitment to the Rescue motto "That Others May Live" were instrumental in a critical medical evacuation which saved the life of a 3-year-old girl May 4, 2024.

The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) received an urgent request for assistance involving a child suffering from a malfunctioning brain shunt, requiring immediate air transportation. Moody Air Force Base’s rescue Airmen then answered the call. An HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter from the 41st Rescue Squadron, along with a team of highly trained pararescuemen from the 38th Rescue Squadron, airlifted the child from Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Hospital in Destin, Florida, to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

"The flawless execution of this operation, from the swift response to the seamless coordination, showcases the exceptional skill and dedication of our rescue teams,” said Col. Paul Sheets, 23rd Wing commander. "I couldn't be more impressed with their performance, which not only reflects their rigorous training but also their unwavering commitment to saving lives, no matter the time or place. This mission exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism, teamwork and commitment to the health and welfare of our community. I am incredibly proud of each and every member involved."

Knowing the mission presented significant medical challenges, once the 38th RQS’s commander obtained higher approval, the squadron's director of operations tasked individual squadron members for the mission to ensure the most skilled personnel were mobilized for the task.

"The main concern for this pediatric patient was neurological decompensation. We brought medication and equipment to support all of these needs," said Capt. Cameron Elward, 38th RQS flight doctor, highlighting the complexities involved in the mission. “Thankfully, the patient did very well during the flight. The PJ team leader made the fantastic call to bring the patient’s mother on board the helo for comfort, which was a huge help.”

The operation unfolded in a meticulously coordinated series of phases, highlighting the expertise and dedication of the military and medical personnel involved.

Commencing with a request for support from the AFRCC, the team swiftly gathered at Moody AFB and took off. The team pre-drew necessary medications, navigated around thunderstorms, and made a fuel stop before reaching Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital. There, the medical staff conducted a thorough handover and prepared the patient and her mother for the flight.

Upon departure, the team coordinated with the Pediatric ICU charge nurse, evaluating the patient under challenging low-light conditions enroute to UF Shands Hospital. They successfully completed the offload and, following a refuel in Gainesville, returned to Moody AFB. From the initial notification at 6:34 p.m. to landing back at Moody at 3 a.m--the mission was completed in less than 9 hours.

The team's readiness for high-stakes missions was ensured through extensive training.

"Pararescuemen undergo a rigorous selection process and 3-year training pipeline that prepares us for the stressful nature of performing rescues, often in combat settings,” said Tech. Sgt. Evan Rogowski, 38th RQS pararescueman and the PJ team leader on the mission. “We barely spend time at home station when we’re not deployed, training and constantly working with our aircrew counterparts to seamlessly execute on time-sensitive missions such as this.”

The mission was a collaborative effort involving multiple key personnel. During the flight, the team closely monitored the patient's vital signs while the 41st RQS operations desk kept in close contact with hospitals to coordinate timelines and give patient status updates – further showcasing the teamwork and coordination crucial to the mission’s success.

"I think I can speak for everyone when I say that—when the call comes in day or night, home station or deployed—the answer will always be unemotionally - yes, we can go,” added Rogowski. “And then training kicks in. We have our roles and responsibilities that each member adheres to, from the helicopter maintenance crews, the pilots and special mission aviators, and the PJ team. We work together to do what’s best for the patient, always.

"In the moment and afterwards, it is never about 'you' or how you’re feeling or the acknowledgement from someone else,” added Rogowski. “I’m grateful that we were able to be in a position to do our jobs. Plain and simple."

The successful outcome underscored the vital role of teamwork and collaboration. These missions often go unnoticed because rescue professionals don't seek recognition.

“It's crucial to realize that the dedicated individuals at the 347th RQG are the ones who train rigorously and make these rescues possible,” said Rogowski. “We stand ready to assist, whether stateside or deployed, whenever our help is needed.”

The successful transport of the child underscores the rescue professionals' commitment to the motto, "That Others May Live." It also highlights the coordinated efforts of military and medical personnel, showcasing their rigorous training and unwavering dedication to saving lives in challenging circumstances.