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West Sacramento's COLE GOULD is congratulated by Governor Schwarzenegger at the Crest Theater on Dec. 7, 2010

Copyright News-Ledger
Dec. 22, 2010

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor    

  A West Sacramento received a silver California Medal of Valor from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Dec. 7.

  Cole Gould, a chief warrant officer in the Army National Guard, was part of a helicopter crew that spent a long night rescuing a boy scout trapped on a mountain in the John Muir Wilderness.

  He and three crewmates were honored for “extraordinary acts of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty of service.”

  Here’s a report of what happened, according to the Army National Guard:

  “At approximately 8:30 pm on June 26, 2008, Army National Guard personnel were preparing to conduct a short, Night Vision Goggle helicopter training mission in the Sacramento vicinity, when the call came in requesting support in a 10,000-foot rescue mission in the John Muir Wilderness.

  “Earlier that day, a Boy Scout troop was crossing a stream in the remote Wilson Lake area of eastern Fresno County, when a 10-ton boulder rolled and trapped a fourteen-year-old boy’s leg between it and another boulder. Most of the crew assembled by Officer Weatherhead for the planned short training mission had already been on duty almost 12 hours. This mission would be challenging because the altitude for the rescue was at 10,000 feet which provided a reduced (helicopter lift) power capability, smoke from a nearby fire restricted visibility, the crew was starting the mission at a time they would normally be going home, and the darkness required use of night vision goggles.

  “In spite of all of this, the crew agreed to the mission and immediately began planning. The helicopter crew departed Mather at 10:10 pm and arrived at the Fresno airport at 11:20 pm where they picked up a CAL FIRE rescue employee and equipment. At 12:35 am, the crew departed Fresno under night vision goggles. They located the victim, conducted a recon of the landing zone and landed at approximately 1:15 am.

  “While Officer Weatherhead stayed with the aircraft, the remainder of the crew, carrying the rescue equipment and using only head lamps and compasses, set out under total darkness through treacherously steep rocky terrain to find the Boy Scout. After nearly three hours of rescue efforts, they were able to move the 10-ton boulder enough to free the boy’s leg. They administered medical aid and carried the boy for more than an hour back to the helicopter. After being awake for 24 hours, the crew arrived at the Fresno airport at approximately 6:10 am and the Boy Scout was then transported to the hospital.

  “The crew’s actions, without regard for their personal safety, saved this young boy’s life. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Chief Warrant Officer Three Randall Weatherhead, Chief Warrant Officer Two Cole Gould, Sergeant First Class Kelly Hughes, and Staff Sergeant Rob Walters, these Silver Medals of Valor for their extraordinary acts of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.”

  Gould told the News-Ledger that the rescue was physically tough.

  “It was at 10,000 feet,” he said. “The lack of oxygen was extremely challenging. We had to land the helicopter about a half mile from the victim and hike up a cliff to get to him. It was at night, so that was difficult.”

  The crew carried in their rescue gear.

  “He had been pinned around eight hours before we got to him,” said Gould. “He was vomiting and pretty lethargic.”

  The crew used an inflatable bag to move the rock off the boy’s leg. Fear of “crush syndrome” led them to move the rock slowly, for fear of releasing toxins from the damaged leg all at once and threatening the boy’s life.

  “We used an airbag system,” Gould recalled. “Sure as heck, it lifted the rock off the kid, and we shored it up with wood.”

  The crew then loaded the gear with the boy into a “Stokes basket” and toted it back to the helicopter. The crew’s medic attended the boy as best he could.

  “We probably had about 300 pounds in the basket, with four of us carrying it on the mountain. It was probably the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done.”

  Then came the challenge of flying the helicopter in thin air at 10,000 feet – a challenge that brought the chopper to within 1 percent of its maximum payload capacity.

Gould with his wife, Kasandra, and daughters Annabelle and Savanah

  And the boy?

  “I know he lived, but we still don’t know if he lost his leg,” said Gould.

  Gould is a West Sacramento resident and native who attended Our Lady of Grace School and graduated from Clarksburg’s Delta High in 2000. He’s a full-time helicopter pilot with the Army National Guard. Gould is married, with two daughters.

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