News | July 9, 2021

Search and rescue teams train on disposed helicopters

By Jason Shamberger Disposition Services

A select group of search and rescue medics proved that “practice makes perfect” still applies to training. The medics made use of demilitarized CH-46 helicopters to practice SAR techniques creating a realistic training experience.

medic sprays helicopter hull with fire suppressing material
Search and rescue medics train on firefighter tactics during a recent session making use of the CH-46 hull.
medic sprays helicopter hull with fire suppressing material
Search and rescue medic training
Search and rescue medics train on firefighter tactics during a recent session making use of the CH-46 hull.
Photo By: Disposition Services
VIRIN: 070721-D-AU600-502
The two CH-46 Sea Knights were processed for disposal, as the platform is reaching the end of its service life, for use as training aides before eventually being turned into scrap.

A stringent process takes place to ensure the CH-46s are disposed of properly. This includes stripping all sensitive and usable components and draining all hazardous fluids before shipping to DLA’s Disposition Services’ disposal yard.

“The Air Wing is able to utilize the hulls for SAR medics to train on specialized passenger extraction and firefighting,” said Bert Hall an aviation maintenance advisor with the Department of State.

Medics practice passenger extraction using a mannequin and helicopter hull
Search and rescue medics simulate moving patients out of the wreckage from a crash scene.
Medics practice passenger extraction using a mannequin and helicopter hull
Search and rescue medics train
Search and rescue medics simulate moving patients out of the wreckage from a crash scene.
Photo By: Disposition Services
VIRIN: 070721-D-AU600-501
For medics, they never know when training could be the difference between life and death.

“When that aircraft goes down, they do everything,” Hall said. “They will do anything and everything associated with extracting [the crew] and getting them to safety. So that is firefighting, that is medical attention, and that is potentially ground protection.”

In the absence of actual helicopters, sea-land containers are used as an alternate method for training. An outline of the aircraft is made on the container, allowing personnel to make specific extraction cut points simulating a realistic emergency extraction scenario. This is an effective substitute when actual hulls are not available.

“The crash rescue extraction training on the 46 hulls is spot on,” said SAR Technician Lead Christopher Roberts recently participated in SAR medic training that made use of the CH-46 hulls. “Great experience for all involved and allows others to see what we actually do to prepare for the real-world event, God forbid, that day should materialize.”

The DOS is phasing out CH-46s from its inventory and replacing them with HH-60 Blackhawks. While several of the helicopters are still in use, the DOS is looking at alternate disposal methods if and when additional CH-46’s become due for demilitarization.