GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee National Guard members shared the details of a recent rescue mission, where a California man got lost and disoriented while hiking the Appalachian Trail after a snow storm.

The park’s Emergency Communications Center received a notification around 8:20 a.m. Jan. 18 that Andrew Burtzloff, 28, of San Diego, was lost due to the heavy snow on the Appalachian Trail.

Guard members thought they were going to have a training day until that call for help came in.

“So we shifted our paperwork from the training to a real-world mission risk assessment,” CW3 Andrew Ridley said.

Ridley was the pilot in command of the mission.

Before they could get in the air and head to the mountains, the crew had to create a flight plan and do risk assessments. They also had to receive approval for the mission from their chain of command.

“In this case, because of the last minute mission, last-minute nature of the mission and the medivac with a lot of unforeseen circumstances, the approval level goes all the way up to the adjutant general,” Ridley said.

Once they got approval, they made sure the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was ready to go. The crew took off for the mountains in less than 30 minutes and were prepared for whatever medical condition the hiker might be in.

“Anything that you can find on a standard ground ambulance, we carry in the flight,” said Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni DeZuani, a paramedic on the flight. “Anything from a ventilator, to cardiac monitors, to medications, to narcotics to any kind of bandage or tourniquet.”

Fortunately for the hiker and the flight crew, National Park Service staffers were able to pinpoint the vicinity of the hiker. The park used location data provided by Burtzloff’s cell phone to locate him off the trail in a ravine near Gregory Bald along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

Unfortunately for the flight crew, it wasn’t an easy location to access with the chopper. However, they trained for these scenarios.

“He was on a ridgeline, but the tree covering would have made it impossible for us to land,” Ridley said of Burtzloff. “So, we used a hoist with our medic on a rescue harness to put the medic on the ground, assess the patient and package them for extraction.”

One of the crew members got to see for the first time why going back to their training and communicating through the entire process was key for a swift rescue.

“This was my first rescue, and so I wanted to make sure I didn’t, you know, miss anything and that I was there for the crew,” 1st Lt. Justin Hyler said.

He said throughout the whole mission he was focusing on his communication, and he thought it went well.

Despite knowing the general area of the hiker, Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta said he wasn’t easy to spot at first.

“Even out here in the snow-covered environment, we didn’t see this gentleman until he showed up in an orange matt that he had,” Banta said. “So, it’s imperative to have something that we can find you with.”

As a note, Banta said it’s always good for hikers to have something reflective or bright so rescuers can find them more easily. He also said they should have some sort of way to contact for help and provide a GPS location, if possible.

Because the hiker was more clearly visible and could be found after the park service pinged his phone, Banta said a lot of precious time was saved.

“We don’t know what to expect when we get there for a hypothermic patient,” he said. “You gotta be careful with them. You can’t move them too much, you gotta be gentle with them.

“So, you know this patient already started to take some of his clothing off, which is obviously a sign of hypothermia. We potentially saved his life by getting him out of the elements. … He definitely probably would not have survived another night in those elements and clothing, so it was a good call.”

Once they located the hiker, Banta and DeZuani lifted him and his gear back up into the helicopter. They immediately started the warming process.

The hiker was safely transported UT Medical and treated for his injuries.

The flight crew said this rescue would not have been possible without the teamwork of the National Park Service and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.