36th RQF thank you

  • Published
  • By Connie Johnson and Teri Small
  • and Family
On Oct. 1, the 36th Rescue Flight dispatched a UH-1N Huey helicopter in search of a 77-year-old man. Four Airmen from the flight conducted rescue number 617, assisting Lloyd Johnson as he was critically injured in the Selway Wilderness near Mink Peak, Idaho. The rescue was delayed until the following morning due to adverse weather conditions and dangerous mountain terrain. 

The following is a thank you from Mr. Johnson's family.

To the Men of the 36th Rescue Flight of the US Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School:

We understand that the men responsible for the rescue of our husband and father, Lloyd Johnson, from within the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness on Oct. 1 were Capt. Micah West, Capt. Christopher Johnson; Tech. Sgt. William Wren; and Tech. Sgt. Patrick Hunt.

It was an amazing feat on the part of these brave men. Mink Peak was covered with several inches of snow, and blizzard conditions were in effect on the evening of the attempted rescue, so the mission was delayed until the next morning.

It is ironic that my daughter and I talked with this crew that evening as they were checking into the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston at the same time we were. We actually saw these men face-to-face for the brief moment we talked outside the Red Lion. The crew explained about the weather difficulties and that they would fly again the next morning about 7:30 to do whatever they needed to accomplish the rescue. It was reassuring to talk to the team that would be doing what was in itself a difficult task; not to mention some of the hurdles they would encounter as the rescue unfolded.

It wasn't until after the save that I learned of mechanical difficulties the next morning, and the rescue would be delayed for a short period. Nevertheless, these fearless men went after my tough, old husband and managed to get him to the Lewiston Airport even though they had fuel issues and other mechanical problems.

I am especially grateful to Sergeant Hunt who talked with me at the hospital and informed me of some of the details of the rescue. He said it was a "hairy rescue," the most difficult save in the crew's history so far. I understand that an officer on the helicopter managed to operate the winch by hand to get my injured husband on board.

That rescue testifies to the persistence and dedication of these men of the 36th. I regret that I've taken so long for a formal thank you, but we were pretty focused on getting Lloyd to a stable situation. We have been home from the hospital for about two weeks now and progress is good. The femur fracture is healing and the ribs still give quite a bit of pain, but Lloyd is alive to appreciate pain and to look forward to getting on another good mule (maybe not the same one).

Since Lloyd has been a "mule man" for many years, he doesn't want mules to get a bad name because of this accident; but he definitely wants the men of the rescue flight to get some good press. When he is able to travel, he wants to get to the Spokane area to personally thank that brave crew.

I treasure the badges that Sergeant Hunt tore off his uniform and gave to me. Because his friends stayed with him through the night and kept him warm and stable, and because you successfully performed a very challenging rescue, Lloyd is alive and recovering.

You say it's all part of your job, the work you do, but you can never know what it means to the families of the injured and lost that you rescue. You put your own safety and lives on the line to save others. There's no greater sacrifice. We owe you more than our thanks; how can we ever express our deepest gratitude.

Connie Johnson and Teri Small and Family