Navy petty officer from Clovis awarded for rescue efforts

A Navy petty officer from Clovis was honored earlier this month for his rescue efforts aboard an MH-60S helicopter in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to a Navy press release

Petty Officer 2nd Class Erik Potter, a member of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 search and rescue crew stationed at Naval Division Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, Calif., received an air medal along with four of his crew members. Air medals are awarded for honorable achievement while participating in aerial flight.

While attending a search and rescue conference in September, the crew of Rescue 463 was called out to assist a cowboy who had fallen off his horse in a meadow high above Cottonwood Pass, Calif. He was severely injured and needed to get to a hospital quickly.

The mission was significant because it was the highest altitude from which the VX-31 Dust Devils have ever performed a successful rescue, and the first rescue for VX-31 in its new MH-60S helicopters, according to the release.

The landing zone was at a density altitude of 12,800 feet. The MH-60S is limited to flying no higher than 13,000 feet.

"After we landed, Potter and I grabbed our gear and began to run to the survivor," 2nd Class Hospital Corpsman Benjamin Hernandez said in the release. "After a few steps we started to get light headed from the thin air and had to walk. We assessed his injuries, put him in a C-collar and loaded him on the stretcher. With four of us carrying the stretcher to the aircraft we got light headed again. With six of us carrying the stretcher it was a bit easier. I have never been so high that I felt like I was going to pass out like that during a rescue."

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