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NEWS | May 10, 2010

Soldiers train on Bambi bucket to fight fires in Kosovo

By Sgt. Joshua Dodds North Dakota National Guard

GJAKOVA/DJAKOVICA, Kosovo, - Multinational Battle Group East aviation Soldiers carried the water, literally, as they tested their firefighting skills recently at Lake Radonjicko.

The training took place in the Italian area of operations in Multinational Battle Group West. A nearby airport served as a staging area and the Italian Air Force provided support.

Capt. Daniel Lee, 2-151st Security and Support Battalion of the South Carolina National Guard said multiple air crews were trained during the three-day period.

The crews used a UH-60 Blackhawk and a Bambi bucket to lift 76 loads of water, each containing about 600 gallons.

"It collects water and disburses it on fires, mostly to put out hot spots," said 1st Sgt. Larry Taylor, the senior enlisted Soldier with Detachment 1, Bravo Company, 777th ASB of the South Carolina Guard.

The aviation element of MNBG E is a combination of four company-sized elements, 2-151st Security and Support Battalion from South Carolina, the 1-777th Aviation Support Battalion from Virginia, and from Kentucky: the 2-147th Aviation Battalion and a detachment of the 1-169th Aviation Battalion-MEDEVAC.

The training allowed the flight crews to sharpen their skills. Understanding how to use the Bambi Bucket can be used to potentially assist the people in Kosovo in a fire emergency, and the crews will also be able to use their skills when they return to the U.S. to help their neighbors and fellow citizens.

"This training was conducted to familiarize new Soldiers and to be a refresher for some of the crews who completed this training prior to mobilization," Taylor said.

Though the training lasted three days, it was day one that posed the biggest challenge.

"The buckets are slightly different here, and they have a slightly different mechanism for letting the water out with a 'Torrentula' valve," said Sgt. Jeremy S. Knight, a crew chief with Bravo Company, 2-147th. "It dumps different and takes on water a little different, but it was nothing we couldn't quickly adjust to after a couple of runs."

Flight crews on a Blackhawk helicopter worked together to coordinate the operation of the Bambi Bucket to ensure the safety of the crew and equipment, as well as those on the ground.

Fire fighters on the ground or from the air often give guidance to the pilot where the water needs to be dropped and the pilot relays to the crew chief when to drop the water, said Knight. The directions ensure that the crew drops the water load in the correct place, which in some cases, could be a location where ground firefighters may be trapped.