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Idaho Army National Guard trains with Boise firefighters

By Capt. Robert Taylor | Idaho National Guard | April 9, 2018

BOISE, Idaho - The Boise Fire Department conducted hoist training with the Idaho Army National Guard's state aviation group April 2-6 at Gowen Field to facilitate future readiness for domestic operations.

The two agencies previously worked together in February 2017 to rescue a 68-year-old man in Weiser after floodwaters stranded the man in his house. The training was the result of an after-action review conducted from that rescue. 

During that rescue, an Idaho Army National Guard Soldier was lowered by hoist into the river after it was discovered fire fighters did not have the proper hoist training. Leaders from the Idaho Army National Guard and the Boise Fire Department agreed afterwards that joint training should occur so that in future operations, officials will have the option to lower a fire fighter with swift water rescue training and equipment into the water in a similar situation.

"The collaborative training we do with the Idaho National Guard is priceless,” said Paul Roberts, Boise Fire Department division chief of special operations."This joint training that the Guard provides Boise Fire with is highly specialized and it provides the unique opportunity to learn techniques that could save a life. This training solidifies what we need to know to be successful in helicopter rescue scenarios.”

The training was designed to allow Boise Fire Department's dive/swift water rescue team to become familiar with an aircraft's hoist while wearing their river rescue gear. In addition, the training provided the opportunity for Soldiers and firefighters to work together outside of an emergency. The training was conducted over three days so that members from the fire department's three shifts could complete the training. 

Firefighters received classroom training and then practiced hooking into the hoist while still on the ground inside an aircraft hangar before completing familiarization training in a Black Hawk. Fire fighters trained on both the H-60 Black Hawk and the UH-72A Lakota.

"It's easier to train a firefighter who has swift water training to ride on the hoist than it is to train an Army hoist operator to become swift water qualified,” said senior firefighter Mike Barbero, who is also an Idaho Army National Guard helicopter pilot.

Barbero coordinated the training between the Idaho Army National Guard and the fire department.

In addition to completing the Weiser River recue, the 1-183rd Aviation Battalion also rescued a 55-year-old man stranded in the Frank Church Wilderness area in October 2017.