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NEWS | Aug. 14, 2016

Va. Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team trains in Pulaski County

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard aviation crews and Chesterfield County first responders conducted aviation rescue hoist training during the Max Creek Search and Rescue Exercise Aug. 13, 2016, in Pulaski County, Virginia. Soldiers assigned to the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment and Detachment 2, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment along with members of Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Service Scuba Rescue Team work together as the Virginia Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to provide trained and ready personnel capable of conducting synchronized aerial reconnaissance and rescue evacuation in situations where there is potential loss of life, limb or eyesight or significant property damage. The event was the latest in a series of exercises that are part of an ongoing training partnership between Virginia National Guard and Chesterfield County Fire & EMS.

“Just look at what is going on in Louisiana where the National Guard is working with state and local emergency responders to save lives, and you can see how critically important it is to have this capability,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We need to make the most of any opportunity we have to expand our partnerships here in Virginia, and training like what we saw at Max Creek deepens the experience of both the Guard’s aviation crews and the Chesterfield Fire & EMS, as well as showcases what we can actually do.”

Soldiers assigned to the Detachment 1, Company A, and a diver from Chesterfield Fire & EMS acted as a mission command element aboard a UH-72 Lakota helicopter and provided aerial reconnaissance and situational awareness, while Soldiers assigned to the Detachment 2, Company G used a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to insert Chesterfield Fire & EMS divers to assist the simulated victims and hoist them to safety.

According to Bryan Swanson, the program manager for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Central Virginia Incident Management Team and member of the unified command team for the exercise, the Virginia National Guard provides an aviation capability that is not readily available anywhere else in the state. He explained that with crews searching on the ground in the aftermath of the mock flash flood, the Guard provides aerial reconnaissance and extraction capabilities that is a key element of the life safety component of the response effort. He said the speed of the Guard’s response could make the difference in saving lives.

“I am an advocate for the passion of these crews from the Virginia National Guard and Chesterfield Fire & EMS,” Swanson said. “It is easy to spot that they are people who believe in what they are doing, and they are going to do whatever it takes to succeed.

The purpose of Pulaski County 2016 Max Creek Full Scale Search and Rescue Exercise was to validate Pulaski County’s response procedures and integrate state and local specialty teams in a unified command environment. In the exercise scenario, flash flooding in the region created situations that required the employment of ground, water and aerial search and rescue elements. More than two hundred responders and observer/controllers from across the commonwealth took part in the exercise facilitated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the Central Virginia All-Hazards Incident Management Team to mobilize and support local incident command operations in response to a major weather incident.

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