Master Sgt. Joseph Brownell has rescued 24 people since being assigned as a medic to Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., in 2008.
Brownell belongs to the 336th Training Support Squadron. His main job is to serve as a medic for the survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but he is also frequently called by civilian law enforcement to rescue people in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. .
He spent close to 4,000 hours on call in 2011, and on one occasion last fall, he rescued nine people in one day. First, he was lowered 240 feet from a helicopter to rescue a hunter, but his work was far from over.
“Some [members] of the local search-and-rescue team — maybe shouldn’t have been out searching for other people — because they were all stranded now,” he said. “So at this time, it was about 9 o’clock at night, we had to go back and rescue the would-be rescuers. We got eight more.”
That was a unit record for the number of people saved in one mission, said Maj. Arthur Miller, commander of Brownell’s medical flight. Brownell also has the most saves of anyone who has ever served in the flight.
Brownell is an expert on medical issues, flying and the search-and-rescue mission, Miller said.
“He really is a kind of perpetual student of learning,” Miller said. “He’s always trying to learn something new, so he’s always delving into [Air Force Instructions] or reading up stuff. So he’s just very, very knowledgeable about how to do his job extremely well.”
Maj. Kathryn Reese-Hudock has been the only hope for wounded troops looking squarely into the face of death.
She has served on eight missions with a team that moves troops with severe lung injuries from Afghanistan to Germany. All of her patients, who would have died if they hadn’t been evacuated, survived the trip.
“We constantly have well-known trauma surgeons who come and work at Landstuhl to see what we’re doing as well as to provide their expertise, and several of them have said that some of these patients they would not take down for [a] CT scan of the head or the body, and yet we manage to put them on a plane and [take] care of them,” she said. During the long flights back to Germany, the patients require constant attention.
“These soldiers, airmen, Marines, they are a part of our family, and so when you get down there, all you want to do is take the necessary steps in treatment to keep them alive and get them back to Landstuhl alive and then eventually get them back to [the U.S.] to see their families,” she said. “That’s what we keep our minds focused on.” Reese-Hudock is deployed to Ramstein Air Base, from where she flies every week to the U.S. with critically ill patients, said Col. Barbara Jefts, chief of nursing administration at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“I’d trust her to take care of me, and there’s not much higher praise than that,” Jefts said.