MARSHFIELD (WAOW) -
We continue a special Newsline 9 series, Someone You Should Know. Nils Strickland is St. Joseph's hospital emergency medical pilot.
As Nils Strickland walks on board Spirit One helicopter, he has his clipboard in hand.
"Just going through my checklist," says Strickland as he adjusts his headset. He's ready to go.
"Spirit One to base, two souls on board, fuel is leveled," Strickland says as he reports back to base. "Windy morning, are you all set? We're off."
Strickland has been a Spirit One pilot for more than 20 years. In fact, he was their first.
"I learned a lot in those early years and I'm still learning," said Strickland.
Throughout his career he's seen it all. His first call was for a premature baby out of Chippewa Falls.
"You could see this little baby in there, just tiny little kid being slid in the back of chopper," remembered Strickland.
His tone changes a little when he remembers one of his worst calls.
"It was really bad, a girl got her leg caught around a power take off shaft," said Strickland.
But no matter the call, there's one thing that never changes.
"You're the one that everyone is looking to get that patient back to the hospital."
Strickland began his career in the 1980s. He was in flight school, about to serve in the military. He and a friend were headed to the beach.
"We came across a traffic accident," recalled Strickland. "I remember as we were sitting there waiting for our turn to go, an EMS helicopter flew right over the top of us. I just looked at that and said, that's what I want to do.
More than 20 years later, he's flying high.
"Does the view ever get old?" I asked Strickland as we flew thousands of feet above Marshfield.
"No, never," he replied. "Sometimes I have to remind myself I do this for a living."
Strickland knows these skylines better than the roads below.
'When you turn up here a little it turns into all forests," he said as he tilted the throttle just slightly. "To the east, we can probably see the sun come up just slightly."
Strickland is flying before the sun comes up. Frankly, that's the way he likes it.
"I'm a night guy," he said.
But, his job is not exactly what you'd call predictable. As we fly, Strickland reflects on one of his most memorable calls.
"We took off, and I still remember the winds were really strong. But, we took off to head up that way," says Strickland.
It was 2011. Strickland and his crew were headed to Merrill. A tornado had ripped through the city.
"You could just see the way the tornado had just torn this path for miles and miles," he explained. "It's hard to forget about those kinds of things -- over the years you never forget about them, you never forget about the parents or the families."
Every day Strickland balances life and death decisions. But he says giving up isn't an option.
"I stay focused on getting us to where we need to go and get them on the ground safely because that's what they're counting on."
That's why Nils Strickland is someone you should know.
"Spirit One back on the pad 7:02 am." sounds the radio. Another morning flight complete.
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