HomeNewsArticle Display

40th HS rescues two missing hikers

(From left to right) Capt. James Harris, 40th Helicopter Squadron co-pilot, Capt. Matt Thompson, 40th HS pilot, Maj. Melonie Parmley, 341st Medical Group flight surgeon, Tech. Sgts. Andrew Blankenship and Daniel Marchick, 40th HS special mission aviators, walk away from a helicopter May 30, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The crew saved two girls and their dog Tuesday morning after the girls got lost while hiking in Sluice Boxes State Park Monday night. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick)

(From left to right) Capt. James Harris, 40th Helicopter Squadron co-pilot, Capt. Matt Thompson, 40th HS pilot, Maj. Melonie Parmley, 341st Medical Group flight surgeon, Tech. Sgts. Andrew Blankenship and Daniel Marchick, 40th HS special mission aviators, walk away from a helicopter May 30, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The crew saved two girls and their dog Tuesday morning after the girls got lost while hiking in Sluice Boxes State Park Monday night. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The 40th Helicopter Squadron saved two girls and their dog from the Sluice Boxes State Park about 30 miles southeast of Great Falls May 30.

The two girls were reported missing after they failed to return from their hike Monday evening and the 40th HS received the call to assist with the search and rescue early Tuesday morning.

“Maj. Matthew Sims, Capt. Kyle Lenz, Staff Sgt. Bryan Mill, and Staff Sgt. Mattew Tidball got the call around midnight and launched shortly after 1 a.m. this morning for their first flight,” said Capt. Matt Thompson, 40th HS aircraft commander.

The crew flew two flights in eight hours but were unable to locate the girls.

They were relieved by a second crew consisting of pilots: Capts. Matt Thompson and James Harris; two special mission aviators: Tech. Sgts. Daniel Marchick and Andrew Blankenship; and flight surgeon Maj. Melonie Parmley.

“Our deputy commander said the first crew could fly two sorties throughout the night but after that the day crew would pick it up,” said Thompson. “I think the thought process there is that if the SAR keeps going through the day then we would want them to be ready to fly tonight.”

But the alert crew would not need to continue the search and rescue that night.

With daylight on their side the second crew was able to spot the two girls within minutes of officially beginning their search.

“We did two initial passes just to orient ourselves to the area, we then turned back on the third pass to actually start searching and it took us maybe five minutes to find them,” said Harris.

According to Thompson they were about two minutes into the third pass when Harris spotted them right away.

Once the girls were located, the aircrew communicated and coordinated with the ground search parties to walk to the girls since they thought it would be faster than waiting for the helicopter to reach the gas amount required for a hover and hoist.

“The ground search party couldn’t get across the river so that’s when everybody knew that we had to make the decision to do something,” said Blankenship.

The team worked to set up the hoist, then lowered the flight doctor down to a clearing where the two girls were waiting and waited for the doctor to do an assessment of the girls.

When they heard back from the flight doctor they hoisted the two girls up and noticed the girls brought their dog who was safe inside one of the SAR jackets the girls were wearing.

“One of them didn’t even have shoes on because she lost her shoes in the creek,” said Parmley. “She fell in, her sister fell in, she went in after her sister and they ended up on the other side of the river and couldn’t get back.”

According to Parmley, the girls hiked up the ridge to aid the helo crew in finding them so they were bruised, banged up and a little cold but otherwise ok.

While this marks the 418th and 419th save for the 40th HS, the aircrew doesn’t take full credit for this save.

“A lot of the credit goes to the older sister who made the decision to climb up the ridge and find an open spot so we could see them,” said Harris.

The aircrew flew the girls and their dog to the parking lot of the Sluice Boxes where their parents, sheriffs and local emergency medical technicians were waiting for them.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.