Helicopter rescue training has Iowa Army and Air Guard training together

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wig

While military pilots are regularly schooled in survival, they don’t often have the opportunity to practice the intricacies of being hoisted into a helicopter. 

Iowa National Guard Airmen and Soldiers were practicing helicopter extractions of a downed pilot near Homer Neb. this week.

VIDEO | 08:11 | Helicopter rescue training has Iowa Army and Air Guard training together

Exercise orchestrator and Iowa Air National Guard Survival Specialist, Master Sgt. Jeff Campbell said water survival is a regular training requirement. Campbell said experiencing things like the wind, noise and height of hoist training is a crucial part of surviving.

“There is a lot of chaos and a lot of stuff going on, the more we can get our aircrew trained the better it will be for everyone involved,” Campbell said.

The exercise in Homer had Iowa National Guard Airmen catching a lift from their Iowa Army Guard counterparts using a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

The downed pilots in the training exercise are from Iowa’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City. The pilot’s rescuers are from the Iowa Army National Guard’s Detachment 1, Company C, 2/211 General Aviation Support Battalion based in Davenport.

After making the trip from the opposite side of the Hawkeye State to the Northeast Nebraska hamlet near Sioux City, the Black Hawk aircrew landed in a freshly cut hay field. The open space next to a large pond doubled as a handy training area for the day where the trainees first received a safety briefing.

There was a tinge of nervousness at first as KC-135 pilots are not accustomed to handing control of their takeoff and landing to someone else. One by one however, each member of the group was harnessed into a rescue strop or harness and hoisted to the helicopter.

As temperatures climbed into the mid-80s the group of around a dozen pilots jumped into the nearby water. One by one they waited to be extracted from the water as they were sprayed with a shower of rotor wash.

The bottom line, according to Campbell, is sewing in muscle memory so each pilot knows what to do during a rescue situation.

“If something does happen and they find themselves alone in the water they will have the tools and the knowledge to get through it,” said Campbell.

During the training each Airmen got to experience the helplessness and trust of relying on their rescuer to bring them to safety. The Iowa Soldiers got to exercise their rescue equipment and were able to check off some of their own training requirements.

Pilots never relish the idea of being in a situation where they need to be rescued.  By punctuating their training with practical experience, the goal of the training is to provide the tools and assurance that surviving a worst-case scenario is possible.

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