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LEMOORE, CA - LEMOORE, Calif. (Nov. 29, 2023) U.S. Navy hospital corpsmen from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Lemoore were suddenly called into action to provide medical coverage to support the Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore security team assigned to secure an inoperable search and rescue (SAR) helicopter in a remote section of a California mountain range.
On Saturday, September 30, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a medical emergency near Garnet Lake and Thousand Island Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a treacherous hiking trail that stretches several thousand miles through the Eastern Sierras within the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.
While attempting to rescue the injured hiker, a NAS Lemoore SAR helicopter experienced difficulties and made a hard landing at a high elevation. The four service members onboard suffered minor injuries and were extracted by another agency’s SAR unit.
Chief Hospital Corpsman John R. Tugman, Chief Hospital Corpsman Michael C. Carter and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ildegar J. Mora were a part of the healthcare team from NMRTC Lemoore who provided medical coverage to support the NAS Lemoore security team in the forest. Hospital Corpsman 1st class Jeremy D. Williams and Hospital Corpsman 2nd class Paul C. Cavanaugh from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit (NMRTU) Fallon also provided medical coverage during the almost one-month long assignment. NMRTU Fallon is a unit of NMRTC Lemoore.
“I was a part of the initial response team that went in to recover and secure items from the aircraft such as radios and the black box,” said Tugman. “The weather, terrain and elevation made for a challenging environment. Most of the team had little to no experience working in those conditions. We were hit on the first night with a good snowstorm with temperatures dipping into the 20s. We started with a team of eight and by day three we were left with just three (people) due to altitude sickness.”
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