Guardian of the Month - January 2020
Congratulations to Howard Mee from A.L.E.R.T.!
Each month, Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) selects an employee that goes above and beyond to uphold the organization’s core values of integrity, compassion, service, and excellence. That employee is nominated and selected by peers as the Guardian of the Month. In January, Howard Mee, Air Ambulance Fixed Wing Pilot for the A.L.E.R.T. program, was chosen.
As a pilot for A.L.E.R.T. II, Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s fixed wing air ambulance, Howard is based at Glacier Park International Airport. He and his team will regularly respond to calls to transport patients all across the country. Typical missions include flights from smaller Montana towns (Libby, Cut Bank, Havre, Great Falls and Browning) to bring patients to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Other flights include transporting patients to specialized care facilities in Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; Palo Alto, CA; and Rochester, MN.
Howard was nominated by multiple peers for the tremendous amounts of courage and leadership he regularly displays. His nominators pointed to one particular mission that exemplifies the kind of person he is. On a cold, snowy night in late November, Howard and his team were called to transport a patient from Browning via Cut Bank to Great Falls. While en route to Cut Bank, they received another call notifying them that a pediatric patient in Cut Bank also needed to be transported, but to Kalispell. In situations like this, where time is of the essence, the ability to think quickly and act efficiently is key. Howard acted quickly and dropped off the first med crew in Cut Bank and then while they were driving by ambulance to Browning to pick up the first patient, he flew back to Kalispell and picked up a second med crew. After flying back to Cut Bank, the two med crews switched places and Howard flew the first med crew and their patient to Great Falls. He then returned to Cut Bank and picked up the second crew and the pediatric patient and flew them to Kalispell.
On that night alone, Howard completed six flight legs, flew for a total of 3.8 hours, traveled 564 nautical miles, transported two patients, and averaged less than 10 minutes on the ground for each stop, with the shortest stop being just four minutes. All this happened with low visibility, snow falling, 20 mph winds, and a temperature of -8 degrees Fahrenheit.
But to Howard, this was just another night of doing his job. “I didn't do anything special that night,” he says. “I just did my job. The reason we were able to do something extraordinary was because I have a crew that can think outside the box. The reason all those things happened so quickly was because of good communication, teamwork, and our ability to trust each other.”
While Howard appreciates the encouragement from his peers, he thinks that everybody within A.L.E.R.T. is worthy of recognition. “In this scenario, I’m kind of just the token face of what we do. I have a great team all around me.”
Howard is a native to the area and has been employed with A.L.E.R.T. since November 2011. He began flight training in July 2000 and worked his way up to being a flight instructor. He later flew cargo for years, until 2006 when he became an air ambulance pilot. After a stint with a company in Montana, he ended up in New Mexico until 2011 when he found his way back home.
Motivated by his ability to support the community he loves, Howard takes a tremendous amount of pride in the work that he and his team do. “I’ve flown a lot of people I know, a lot of people I grew up with,” he continues. “I love being a part of this community. It’s great to have a job that allows you to support those that are important to you.”
Outside of work, Howard enjoys spending time with his wife and five children. If he’s not at work or at church, he’s in the mountains. He loves hiking, backpacking, camping, and being outdoors in general.