Featured Article| Volume 42, ISSUE 1, P15-18, January 2023

A Medevac Maverick's Personal Ukraine Mission to Save Lives

Published:November 19, 2022DOI:


      In late March of 2022, a mate of Caleb Carr's reached out to him about the Vita Rescue System (VRS; Vita Inclinata, Broomfield, CA). He e-mailed the following: “I was scrolling LinkedIn, and I saw the VRS right next to a bombing of Kyiv. Can you help?” Carr found out later that the head of Ukraine's emergency service was right next to his friend when he realized the impact that the VRS could have on the country's fight. There wasn't a question in Carr's mind about what he should do once he spoke with the Ukrainian military directly. First, he had to use a hot spot on Google Hangouts (Google, Mountain View, CA) because they had lost all connectivity via normal means. Then, through the spotty connection with them in a bomb shelter, the Ukrainian ministry explained the importance of the system and the impact it could have. It was all he could do not to be distracted by their bravery and the unmistakable face of exhaustion on all of their faces. Within 10 minutes, Vita cofounder Derek Sikora and Carr decided to divert all of the company's resources to ensure that they could deliver the VRS to Ukraine as fast as possible. Within 3 weeks, they were successful.
      If your company possesses a new technology capable of saving lives in war-torn Ukraine, at what extremes would you go to to get this device into the hands of the Ukrainian government? If you are Caleb Carr, CEO of Vita Inclinata, the only answer is “whatever it takes.”
      As a volunteer firefighter for Bennett-Watkins Fire Rescue in Colorado, Caleb leverages his emergency medical technician license/search, rescue, and wilderness first responder certification to save lives in his community; helping those in need is in Caleb's blood. His passion for selfless service was amplified at age 15 during 1 of his training missions as a search and rescue volunteer. His longtime friend and mentor went into cardiac arrest at his side. A medical helicopter was called, but because of the rescue litter's swinging, the helicopter could not airlift his friend, and he passed.
      Figure 1
      Figure 1Mi-8 twin-turbine helicopter in flight with the Vita Rescue System suspended.
      Figure 2
      Figure 2Caleb Carr demonstrating the Vita Rescue System to Ukrainian special aviation unit crews.
      Figure 3
      Figure 3A close-up of the Vita Rescue System.
      Figure 4
      Figure 4The Vita Rescue System being loaded onto a Russian Mil Mi-8 twin-turbine helicopter.
      Figure 5
      Figure 5Caleb Carr's automobile with the Vita Rescue System strapped to the roof.
      Figure 6
      Figure 6Caleb Carr's Ukraine press interview.
      Caleb overcame this traumatic experience by enrolling in medical school at the University of Colorado Denver, where his professor challenged him to solve the swinging litter basket problem. So, with passion and purpose, Caleb founded Vita Inclinata in 2015 to abolish the dangers of swinging rescue baskets for good.
      Caleb and a team of engineers created the Vita Rescue System (VRS). The breakthrough technology leverages high-powered electric duct fans outfitted with motion sensors attached to a litter basket. The stabilization system senses movement, the environment, and angular momentum and automatically stabilizes the load with less than a .25-second response time.
      Watching news coverage of Ukrainian soldiers struggling to rescue civilians from bombed cities, Caleb knew his innovation would dramatically decrease the time to extract the wounded (hoisting in 2 minutes instead of 20 minutes) and fly them to a medical treatment facility.

      Delivery Into the Danger Zone

      Working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Emergency Service, Caleb was able to secure a Russian Mil Mi-8 twin-turbine helicopter to conduct VRS medevac training in Uzhgorod for Ukrainian special aviation unit crews. That was the easy part. The tricky part was figuring out how to successfully get this new technology into a war zone without being harmed or captured.
      Logistics were among the most significant hurdles, and unforeseen obstacles presented constant challenges, but Caleb found a way to overcome them. Accompanied by coworker Scott Slack, on April 11, 2022, he loaded the VRS system onto a rental car and proceeded from Poland to cross the border into Ukraine.
      The first stop was in Lviv to conduct a press conference and explain their Ukraine mission. Journalists gathered in an old brewery converted into an emergency press center to hear the latest news. As Caleb finished his briefing at the podium, air raid sirens began to blare, and Caleb and Scott were quickly escorted to an ancient catacomb beneath a large church to wait for the “all clear” announcement.
      After the press conference, the pair embarked on an 8-hour journey through multiple checkpoints operated by armed guards filled with suspicion. Tensions mounted as guards saw their small car approach each checkpoint with unknown technology strapped to the roof, an American flag in the window, and Polish license plates.
      Tensions reached a critical level at 1 checkpoint when Ukrainian officers stopped Caleb's vehicle for inspection. A guard found pictures of several checkpoints Scott took on his digital camera. The surprise discovery caused all guards to draw their guns with Caleb and Scott square in their crosshairs. Then, in a voice filled with panic, 1 of the guards shouted, “Russian? Russian?”
      Calling on his training to remain calm even in the most stressful circumstances, Caleb explained they were coming from a press conference conducted several hours ago in Lviv. He backed up his claim by asking the guard holding the camera to scroll right for the evidence. Remaining skeptical, the guards separated Caleb and Scott into different police vehicles for further interrogation. Fortunately, their stories were identical, and their passports, driver's licenses, and other paperwork checked out; the pair were released to continue their journey.

      Training With the “Best of the Best” Medevac Technology

      On April 12th, Carr and Slack arrived at the air base to conduct the VRS training. Training the Ukrainian medevac crew was approximately 20 miles from bombing in eastern Ukraine and Russian-contested airspace.
      The medevac crew looked exhausted, but their eyes showed determination and resolve. However, Caleb was now faced with another hurdle to overcome; none of the crew spoke English, and their appointed translator was not present. In addition, crewmembers had never conducted or witnessed a medevac mission—another challenge Caleb needed to overcome.
      There was no time for the translator to arrive; Russian jets were spotted in the area, and the Mi-8 twin-turbine helicopter would be an easy target. Caleb showed how to hook the VRS to the helicopter hoist. The Ukrainian crew understood the operational procedures for a successful deployment. Finally, the translator arrived and sped up the ground training.
      The crew fired up the helicopter engines and began the preflight check. First, Caleb threw the basket out to demonstrate a stable hoist. Then, after several sessions, Caleb handed the VRS controls over to crewmembers. They confirmed their training comprehension by lowering the basket to ground level and bringing it back up. Success! The crew put the helicopter back on the ground before the patrol of Russian jets noticed their activities.
      In under 4 hours, Caleb introduced American-made, cutting-edge rescue technology and trained Ukraine crews to conduct high-risk evacuation missions within a war zone. Through Caleb's actions, Vita Inclinata's mission of providing technology that saves lives was personified. Moreover, he put that mission to the ultimate test, not only to aid Ukraine but also in the hope of inspiring other company leaders and the US defense industry to continually provide Ukraine with more medical, protective, and rescue equipment.

      Mission Accomplished

      Because of Caleb's mission, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine formally requested 30 VRS systems to extend this medevac capability to their fire and rescue units on the eastern front. In addition, 11 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Lewis and Director Hursch, calling their attention to the request by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine for “innovative American technology” rescue basket stabilization systems. The letter refers to the VRS as “a generational leap forward” and a “groundbreaking system.” Caleb's Ukraine mission has inspired members of Congress to acknowledge the opportunity to provide lifesaving equipment for the Ukrainian emergency services and urge others to get these rescue basket stabilization systems to Ukraine “without delay.”


      Caleb B. Carr, JD, is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer for Vita Inclinata Technologies, a Denver, CO-based aerospace and industrial company. Caleb started his career as a volunteer search and rescue tech for Multnomah (Oregon) County Search and Rescue. A mentor and fellow volunteer suffered cardiac arrest while on a night training mission, and this accident became the genesis of Vita Inclinata. Caleb graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver with a bachelor of science in neuroscience and a bachelor of arts in public policy. He also enrolled in the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor (focused on corporate law and civil litigation.) Currently, Caleb is completing the final course work for his master's in business administration from Penn State University, State College, PA. Caleb continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter, search and rescue technician, and assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado. His work at Vita Inclinata Technologies has won recognition such as “Forbes 30 Under 30” for the manufacturing and industry category, Titan 100 CEO winner, and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Desert Mountain Region. He has rung the NASDAQ opening bell and has been published in Forbes, CNN, CNBC, Fast Company, NBC News, and many other outlets for his work.