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Air National Guard pararescuers train at Northern Strike 18

By Airman 1st Class Tiffany Clark | 110th Attack Wing, Michigan Air National Guard | Aug. 14, 2018

ALPENA, Mich. - Service members from all four branches taking part in Northern Strike 18 participated in a joint mass-casualty exercise, Aug. 10. This exercise enabled multiple units to work together to tackle complex issues, while securing, treating, extricating and evacuating simulated casualties.

The exercise, which started with a simulated "brown-out landing" of a CH-47 helicopter, which had five crew and 15 passengers with various simulated injuries, triage and treatment. The brown-out landing is a situation in which while landing in a sandy or dirt-based terrain, the pilots of a rotary wing aircraft lose visibility and crash.

Pararescue specialists (PJs) from the 103rd Pararescue Squadron, Westhampton Beach, New York Air National Guard, arrived on scene as the quick-reaction force and secured the area. At the same time, PJs were circling above in a Navy MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6, Naval Air Station North Island, California, to assist Army National Guard Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) and Marine infantrymen with security operations to protect patients.

"The benefit of training like this is that we get to work with other units and the other branches," said Maj. Bryan Walsh, Combat Rescue Officer, 103rd RQS, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. "Coming out here we get to work with different atmospheres in a large-scale exercise."

After hitting the ground, the group set up a casualty collection point and began triaging and treating patients, while the officers in charge maintained airspace de-confliction and surveyed helicopter landing zones to expedite evacuation of the simulated casualties. Simultaneously, the PJs began extricating individuals who were trapped inside of the crushed vehicles.

"I cannot remember the last time we were able to simulate this many patients," said Walsh. "The officers got some training, too, with being able to coordinate all of the moving pieces. Our guys were able to get some really good hands-on training with crushed cars and about 20 patients on the ground injured and needing medical attention."

While planning for the exercise was lengthy, it was training that was well worth the time and effort that it took to put together, participants said.

"These accidents don't happen that often, but it is something that we need to be able to train to," said Walsh. "We executed this mission with teamwork, having the leadership and the team communicating effectively to get everyone out as efficiently and safely as possible."

Northern Strike 18 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting service members from many states, multiple service branches and a number of coalition countries during the first three weeks of August 2018 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Michigan and operated by the Michigan National Guard. The accredited Joint National Training Capabilities exercise demonstrates the Michigan National Guard's ability to provide accessible, readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, together with the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment.