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NEWS | May 31, 2024

Washington Army Guard, Partners Train on Air Rescues

By Joseph Siemandel, Joint Force Headquarters - Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - As Washington National Guard helicopter crews can confirm, emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time in the state. Hikers slide down cliffs and a routine walk on a nature trail could require an emergency airlift.

To build familiarization and share tactics, techniques and procedures, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation, joined members of the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue team May 15 at Crystal Mountain ski resort to rehearse rescue operations with military aircraft.

“This operation provided a mutually beneficial, unique opportunity for first responders in Pierce County to coordinate with the Washington Army National Guard in preparation for realistic, all-hazards domestic emergency response and rescue,” said Maj. Kevin Robillard, operations officer, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation. 

The training resulted from relationships with the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue team. Lt. Cols. Rebeccah Martinazzi and Scott Fieldman, who work for the Fire Department and are in the Washington Army National Guard, helped set up the training.

“We had been training for several weeks at Crystal Mountain and this was the culminating event,” said Fieldman. “We had reps from across Pierce County Fire and Rescue, the Washington National Guard, Graham Fire, FEMA, Pierce and Snohomish County Sheriff Offices, and rescue crews from Crystal Mountain take part in the training.”

The Guard aircraft picked up members of the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue team from Thun Field, airlifting them to Crystal Mountain to participate in a gondola rescue scenario.

“This happened in Turkey last month coincidentally,” said Fieldman.

The Washington Army National Guard is part of the larger rescue operations footprint in Washington state.

“There is the potential to have 230 rescue assets who are technician experts in the region answer the call,” said Fieldman.

Guard aviation assets have seen an increase in rescue operations the past decade, so the training at Crystal Mountain was valuable for the flight crew that participated.

“We were able to not only discuss scenarios like flying near the ropes courses and gondola but provide valuable feedback and input on what Washington Army National Guard’s aviation aircraft and aircrews are capable of assisting with,” said Robillard.



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