40th HS assists local sheriff's office with save

A 40th Helicopter Squadron flight crew flies a UH-1N Huey Iroquois over Montana's landscape.  A four-person crew recently assisted the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department in finding a missing man.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

A 40th Helicopter Squadron flight crew flies a UH-1N Huey Iroquois over Montana's landscape. A four-person crew recently assisted the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department in finding a missing man. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- A UH-1N Huey helicopter crew assigned to the 40th Helicopter Squadron assisted the Cascade County Sheriff's Department locate a missing man March 18.

The crew, operating Blade 08, consisted of Capt. Leo Gracik, aircraft commander/pilot; 1st Lt. Preston Moon, co-pilot; and Tech Sgts. Eric Adkins and David Galasso, flight engineers.

At around 3 a.m. on March 18, a 22-year-old, intoxicated man jumped out of a moving vehicle.
After he ran off and his friends were unable to find him, they contacted the Cascade County Sheriff's Department. Not long into their search, the CCSD lost the man's tracks in blowing snow and called in Cascade County Search and Rescue volunteers. Blade 08 was launched from Malmstrom Air Force Base soon after this call was made.

"We were initially notified by [the Base Defense Operations Center] and were redirected by the Cascade County Sheriff to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center for request validation," the crew said. "Once validated, the request was processed through the [341st] Missile Wing chain of command."

The crew was off the ground and on their way by 7:34 a.m. After about 40 minutes of using Forward-Looking Infrared Radiometer, or FLIR, and low-level contour visual search equipment, the man was found by a local farmer who flagged down the ground crews. He was located between Power and Vaughn, Mont., in the fetal position in the farmer's chicken coop. The man was found only six hours after he first went missing but was suffering from hypothermia when the crew got to him.

According to the crew, "There were no complications on this mission. It was fairly
straightforward and we acted mainly as a communications platform as terrain prevented direct communication between deputies and other ground personnel."

Although this mission was only an assist to the CCSD, it was just one way the 40th HS is an important asset to not only Malmstrom AFB, but to the surrounding communities, according to officials.

"The U.S. Air Force plays an integral role in the National Search and Rescue Plan for the United States," the crew said. "Air Force assets are often called upon to render aid to the local community when authorities lack the resources and training we inherently possess. It makes us feel proud to give a little back to the community that supports us every day."