PACIFIC OCEAN— Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) performed a medical evacuation after a request came from a U.S. Army logistics support vessel (LSV) in the early hours of May 15.
After receiving the call, Lake Erie plotted a direct course to the LSV Once in range, the ship deployed an embarked helicopter assigned to the "Scorpions" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 Detachment Four to retrieve the distressed mariner.
“We got the request to conduct the MEDEVAC within an hour of initial notification,” said Lt. Mark Rittenhouse, the tactical action officer on duty at the time the ship received the call. “At first, we weren’t sure we would be the ones to respond. When standing by to conduct an operation like this, many things have to be considered quickly, and it’s all being done in the best interest of the individual who is in distress.”
The mariner was brought aboard Lake Erie, and his condition was assessed in the ship’s medical facility.
“The Lake Erie is a multi-mission ship,” said Rittenhouse. “These types of things are not uncommon. The important thing is that we were able to respond quickly.”
The patient was later flown from Lake Erie to Tripler Army Medical Center in Oahu, Hawaii, for additional care.
Lake Erie’s Air Detachment Officer in Charge Lt. Cmdr. Keith Johnson spoke about the challenges the aircrew experienced during the MEDEVAC.
“This was a unique situation, because the Army ship we were flying to was not air capable,” said Johnson. “We had to do a hoist MEDEVAC where we lowered a basket with our aircrewman and lifted the patient up in it. The only safe place to lift him from was the ship’s well deck. We didn’t have much room. The deck was slippery, and the ship was rolling significantly.
Johnson added that there was a very thorough discussion before the they left, and they studied photos of the ship to ensure that they had a definite plan of action.
This is the second rescue mission for Lake Erie in the last two months. The first occurred March 19, while underway conducting a composite training unit exercise with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. Lake Erie provided assistance to 25 mariners after receiving a call of a civilian ship taking on water.
Lake Erie is currently underway on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts.
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