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NEWS | June 15, 2012

Alaska Army National Guard aviation unit trains on wildfire response

By Army Capt. Amy B. Slinker 134th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP DENALI, Alaska - Alaska Army National Guard aviators conducted wildfire response training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Arctic Valley in Anchorage June 9-10.

Members of B Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment flew UH-60 Black hawk helicopters, dumping buckets of water over targets that included tree lines and unused dirt roads. Wildfire response is a state mission, so the unit conducts this training annually.

The training qualified new pilots and crew members, while re-certifying existing pilots and crews for emergency wildfire missions. Pilots were required to successfully fly 12 drops, and approximately 25 Soldiers participated in the training.

"We stopped at several different locations to scoop up water from nearby lakes," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nyle Harrison, a flight instructor pilot with the unit. "The water buckets can carry up to 900 gallons of water. It is important for the pilot to know how many pounds the Blackhawk is carrying, relative to how much the Blackhawk weighs and the amount of fuel it has."

Army 1st Lt. Jamie Odom manages communications for the unit and flew on the helicopter during the training as a way to understand and experience the challenges faced by air crews during a wildfire response mission.

"This training is very important to the unit," Odom said. "Not only are the pilots training for real world state emergencies to put out wildfires, but they are also honing their target skills."

Harrison said this experience is critical for pilots, sharpening their piloting and maneuvering skills.

"Our pilots and crew members did exceptionally well this weekend," Harrison said. "They love doing this training, and it gives them confidence that they can do greater things."



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