NEWS | Oct. 6, 2020

Colorado Hoist Rescue team, Colorado National Guard partner to save lives in high country

By Colorado National Guard Public Affairs CONG, TAG, 2-135, HAATS

CONTACT: Colorado National Guard Public Affairs,, 720-250-1053

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado Hoist Rescue Team and Colorado National Guard partnered to change the way that the military performs hoist rescues. 

This innovation shortens the time required for a helicopter to hover above a scene, increasing victims’ chances for survival.

The team sourced a bag-based litter system with an anti-rotational brake that is packaged into a cube with a rescuer and lowered to the victim. Once delivered, the rescuer can unfold the bag and rapidly prepare the patient for extraction.

“This innovation saves lives,” State Army Aviation Officer U.S. Army Col. William Gentle said.  “The large-scale Army integration of dynamic litter hoist operations, through a combination of equipment fielding and aircrew training, will improve the safety margin of all aircrews conducting hoist operations, and act as a dramatic force multiplier on the battlefield.”

The CONG has been using this technique and equipment since 2018.

“The improvement of safety in dynamic litter hoist operations will benefit units throughout all services and components, both in combat and domestic support operations,” CHRT Program Manager, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Clayton Horney said. "The Colorado National Guard, through the CHRT, is responsible for all hoist extraction rescues in Colorado, flying an average of 27 missions a year and saving 21 lives during 2019 alone.”

Colorado Army National Guard Aviation support to SAR operations has existed since the CONG acquired its aviation capability due to the limited availability of civilian or state hoist-capable aircraft.  Hoist operations are required when a slope is so steep that no part of a helicopter can land to retrieve victims at high altitude.

Local jurisdictions initiate SAR requests for CONG aviation assets.  Requests are typically routed through the Colorado Search and Rescue Association to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to the CONG Joint Operations Center in Centennial, Colorado.  The Joint Task Force – Centennial Commander then directs the COARNG to support civil authorities to save lives and reduce suffering by providing SAR services.

The COARNG and the CHRT work with elite civilian rescue organizations, both domestically and internationally, and incorporate the latest SAR equipment and techniques, to include dynamic litter operations, to safely complete search and hoist operations in the high-altitude and high-angle terrain found in Colorado.

For more than 160 years, the men and women of the Colorado National Guard have served our nation in wartime and as the first military responders in support of civil authorities during state emergencies. The CONG’s 5,500 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are Always Ready, Always There.