40th Helicopter Squadron

The 40th Helicopter Squadron, assigned to Malmstrom AFB, Mont., began as Detachment 5 of the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron and was one of seven detachments in the 37th ARRS under Military Airlift Command. The 37th ARRS was activated during the Korean War when helicopters were first used for medical evacuation. After the Vietnam War, 37th ARRS was deactivated, only to be reactivated in December 1973. 

The 37th ARRS has been in service since March 21, 1968 and has carried out numerous search and rescue operations in combat areas throughout Southeast Asia, participated in the evacuations of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saigon, Vietnam and also provided service during the assault on Koh Tang Island during the Mayaguez incident. 

Malmstrom AFB has had helicopters assigned since December 1964 under the Strategic Air Command structure. The 40th Rescue Flight was activated on May 1, 1993, Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command and subsequently, Air Force Global Strike Command . In April 1998, the unit was redesignated as the 40th Helicopter Flight, and in October, 2005, the unit was redesignated the 40th Helicopter Squadron. 

The 40th Helicopter Squadron ensures strategic security by providing flexible, rapid-response helicopter airlift support to the 341st Missile Wing. The 40th also performs aerial surveillance of Department of Defense strategic weapon convoys and short notice emergency security forces responses; supports emergency war order taskings, and priority personnel and logistical transportation. The 40th Helicopter Squadron has a proud rescue history and currently conducts search and rescue missions in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff National Search and Rescue plan. 

The 40 HS currently employs the UH-1N "Iroquois" helicopter, commonly known as the "Huey," a name that stems from its original designation of utility. The aircraft can carry up to 13 passengers at a maximum gross weight of 10,500 lbs. It has a range of 300 miles and can travel at a maximum airspeed of 130 knots (approximately 145 miles per hour). To date the unit has saved more than 370 lives and since 1973 has accumulated over 125,000 accident-free flying hours. The men and women of the 40th Helicopter Squadron are proud of their military heritage and continue to strive for excellence and better service for the 341st Missile Wing.

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Air, space power: 40th HS CC shares history, legacy of flying missions

Commentary by Lt. Col. William Thomas
40th Helicopter Squadron commander

7/9/2007 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont.  

Airpower at Malmstrom? Absolutely, and it's better known as the 40th Helicopter Squadron.

It is not uncommon for one of our new pilots or flight engineers to arrive on base and ask for directions to the helicopter squadron. The response to their very logical request is often, "Oh, we don't have flyers at Malmstrom anymore." That response often comes just as one of our eight helicopters is flying over, returning from a local mission. 

The 40th Helicopter Squadron has a long, progressive history, with its roots coming from deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The structure and the mission of the 40th HS has changed dramatically since its inception and has rapidly transformed since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and is the 341st Space Wing's most decorated unit. Here is a brief background of this proud and professional flying organization. 

The 40th HS was originally constituted the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron and was activated March 21, 1968, at Udorn Air Base, Thailand. The squadron performed combat search-and-rescue missions throughout the Southeast Asian theater and participated in many intense combat actions including the evacuation of Saigon. 

Following the Vietnam War, the 40th ARRS moved to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where their primary mission for the next 10 years was to provide transportation and support for Hill's bombing ranges. The unit was inactivated in 1987 and was later redesignated the 40th Rescue Flight and activated May 1, 1993, equipped with the UH-1, at Malmstrom. 

The mission of the 40th RQF was to provide passenger and cargo transport to and from the missile field and to support the National Search and Rescue Plan. Five years later, the 40th RQF was redesignated the 40th Helicopter Flight, and in October 2005, the 40th HF was redesignated the 40th HS. 

How did helicopters first arrive here at Malmstrom? Helicopters were certainly a part of the Montana skyline long before the 1993 40th RQF designation. They first appeared in 1964 with the advent of the LCBM sites being constructed in central Montana. Following the Vietnam conflict the Air Force transferred all helicopter units assigned to support the Strategic Air Command to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron. The Malmstrom unit was designated Det 5, 37
th ARRS.

 In 1993, the Air Force undertook a dramatic reorganization to better utilize existing resources and to streamline its war fighting capabilities. During this time, all support helicopter units were re-assigned to their host Strategic Missile Wings, and two months later were transferred to Air Force Space Command. 

The 40th HS executes a 2,700-hour flying program flying the 20th Air Force's most complex homeland security and helicopter support missions, and is their most diversely qualified helicopter squadron, conducting day and night security missions utilizing night vision goggles, forward looking infrared radar and often operating in remote, mountainous environments with adverse weather. 

To date, the 40th HS has saved 367 lives and has logged more than 125,000 accident-free flight hours. 

The men and women of the 40th HS are proud of their military heritage, excited about their future and continue to strive to better serve the 341st SW operating under their vision "Anytime Aerospace Excellence."


40th HS records save number 377

By Christy Mason

341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office

A UH-1N Huey helicopter crew assigned to the 40th Helicopter Squadron recorded the unit’s 377 save when they rescued an injured hiker near Lace Lake in the Mission Mountain Range, northeast of Missoula, Mont. , July 2.

The crew consisted of Capt. Patrick Burke, aircraft commander/pilot; Capt . Jesse Greer, co-pilot; Tech. Sgt. Michael France and Staff Sgt. Michelle Bressen, flight engineers; and Dr. (Maj.) David Oldham, flight surgeon.

 “We were alerted very early  that morning by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center who had received a request from the Missoula County Sheriff’s department that a hiker had been injured and was unable to walk,” said Captain Greer.

A 21 year old man was hiking on a steep trail about nine miles in the range Thursday evening when he slipped down a muddy cliff into downed timber and his calf was impaled by a tree branch.

The crew was off the ground and on their way by 6:45 a.m.  As the crew got near the site of the accident, they encountered some difficulties before being able to rescue the man.

“Due to heavy rain and low visibility we had to land at the airport at Seeley Lake and wait about an hour.  Once we took off from there, we again were forced to land in Condon due to low clouds and fog,” Captain Greer said.

Once the clouds lifted, the crew was able to get to the hiker who had been stabilized by the Missoula County Search and Rescue.

“The crew lowered me down first on the penetrator, then lowered the Stokes litter stretcher down after me,” said Major Oldham.  “We also used a deflatable backboard to secure the man.  It took about 10-15 minutes to get him ready for the flight.”

The deflatable backboard is quite new to the medical group and hadn’t been used on a live patient to date.

“It’s basically a blanket that we wrap around the patient and then deflate the air from it, like shrink wrap.  It’s very beneficial in these types of situations where the patient has to be lifted to the helicopter.  It kept him in a fixed position and stabilized him in the litter preventing any further damage.  This is the first time I’m aware that it has been used in a rescue situation for us,” Major Oldham said.

After the injured man was safely secured in the aircraft, the crew rushed him to the Missoula airport where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to the hospital.

40th HS fields first all-female crew in a decade

Captain Abbe Warren was the first female USAF helicopter pilot to join the USAF Helicopter Pilot Association. See her story Abbe Warren

40th HS fields first all-female crew in a decade

By Valerie Mullett, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office, June 2010

Another piece of Wing One history was made Monday when the first all-female helicopter crew in nearly 10 years took to the skies on a training mission in the Little Belt Mountains.

While several female pilots have come and gone over the years the 40th Helicopter Squadron has been part of the 341st Missile Wing, there’s never been a female flight engineer to call Malmstrom her home. That’s because they are a rarity. Staff Sgt. Michelle Bresson is one of only two female UH-1N flight engineers currently in the active-duty Air Force.

So when Capts. Abbe Warren and Katy Tenpenny found out Sergeant Bresson was headed this way, they started putting the wheels in motion to make the historic flight happen.

It’s been something we wanted to do just because of the fact that it is kind of unique,” Captain Tenpenny said. “It’s very rare and kind of awesome, actually.”

Coordinating the flight took some time because Captain Warren recently had a baby and couldn’t fly during the last trimester of her pregnancy. Sergeant Bresson only arrived six months ago and Captain Warren is also due for a permanent change of station move to Arizona next week.

While the flight was somewhat of a unique opportunity, it was really just another day at the office for the three who participated.

This was a good opportunity, but it’s really just business as usual for us,” Captain Warren said.

Sergeant Bresson echoed those sentiments.

It’s a job and I do the best I can at it,” she said. “These are two fully qualified pilots and I’m a fully qualified engineer. We are just out here doing a normal mission like any other crew would do.”

While the primary mission of the 40th Helicopter Squadron is security, their secondary mission is search and rescue. That is a mission that is called upon often by the local communities and remaining proficient in those talents requires training. Most calls for search and rescue also involve medical personnel – a flight surgeon and a medical technician.  Along for the training was a fourth female, Senior Airman Malaya Movido.

The mission Monday was to practice hoist capabilities – one form of rescue used by the squadron in helping them achieve their current record of 378 saves.

We’re the only hoist-capable aircraft in the region so it just feels good when we’re able to go out and help in the community,” Captain Tenpenny said.