CHARLESTON, S.C. – As Tropical Storm Florence continues to bring heavy rain and flooding throughout the South Carolina coast, many people are alive today thanks to an elite Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, or HART.
Its members are performing highly challenging water rescues in an effort to stave off the devastating aftermath wrought by Hurricane Florence.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, a Black Hawk pilot with the South Carolina National Guard's 2-151st Security and Support Aviation Battalion, leads a unique team comprised of National Guard pilots, crews and civilian first responders – they are the heart of HART.
"We have been able to combine state and National Guard capabilities to not only support the citizens of South Carolina, but the nation as well," Hutto noted, adding their HART deployed to perform rescue missions during Hurricane Harvey. During 2015's "thousand-year flood," the HART saved 35 South Carolinians on their first day. There are only six National Guard HARTs in the country.
The National Guard crews can rescue people from windows, balconies and other obstacles in the most trying conditions. They do it alongside local first responders like Scott Jackson, a City of Greenville firefighter.
"We are also full-time firefighters," Jackson said. "Our departments let us come and support the HART during emergencies like this."
The unique partnership is about neighbors helping neighbors, Tripp said.
"Not only are we Citizen-Soldiers in the National Guard, our team is comprised of citizens who are first responders in their own respective neighborhoods," he said.
While the full effects of Florence remain unknown, Tripp assured the HART will keep beating, because they are prepared for any mission "wherever we are needed."