Va. Guard Lakota flight crews train with local first responders

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

CHESTERFIELD, Va. – Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment partnered with team members from the Chesterfield Fire & EMS rescue team June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va., during the unit’s two-week annual training period.

“The goal of the exercise was to replicate an actual emergency and simulate the response process at the first responder level,” explained Capt. Aaron Loy, commander of the detachment.

The scenario for the training involved notional heavy flooding that left several “victims,” played by Soldiers in the unit, stranded at three separate locations: trapped on top of a school bus, on top of a building and on an boat in a nearby river.

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“The basic premise was a Hurricane Katrina-type scenario occurred in the Richmond, Va. area,” Loy said. “Local first responder and civilian agency resources are fully occupied with response and rescues and additional resources are required due to the scope of the disaster. The on-scene incident commander requests through the [Virginia Department of Emergency Management] for [Virginia National Guard] aviation search and rescue assets to provide additional assistance locating and rescuing multiple stranded and injured victims.”

At each of the rescue sites, flight crews hovered a UH-72 Lakota helicopter over the “victim,” then sent a Chesterfield rescue team member down the hoist to evaluate the “victim” and assist in hoisting them to safety via either the helicopter rescue basket or standard hoist equipment.

The unit also made use of an additional Lakota helicopter equipped with the mission equipment package, or MEP, which includes a forward centerline-mounted camera system with advanced optics and a cabin touch-screen display, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system. That aircraft acted as the command and control element during the exercise and coordinated with Chesterfield’s Mobile Command Center to coordinate the “rescues” as they were called in from higher headquarters. The command and control aircraft “relayed grid coordinates to the hoist Lakota for live extract using Chesterfield Fire & EMS rescue technicians,” according to Loy.

“Chesterfield Fire & EMS are the designated Virginia Division I Technical Rescue Team Water Rescue Asset,” explained Loy. “They bring professional expertise, proficiency and experience in victim location and water rescue operations that the Virginia National Guard simply does not have. “

Once the “victims” were hoisted to safety, the Lakota transported them to a casualty collection point set up nearby, staffed primarily by Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 2, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, the Virginia Guard’s medical evacuation detachment. Flight medics assessed and stabilized the “victims” and were transported by UH-60 Black Hawk to a notional hospital for “treatment” as needed.

“The benefit to this is to hammer out all the communications issues and making sure we’re able to communicate to all different agencies that we need to be able to talk to and it’s basically just to work on coordination,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Paul Radford, a standardization instructor with the Lakota detachment. “We can do all these things and we can practice these things individually, but now we’re trying to mesh it all together and making sure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit and that we can do it smoothly, so that when we really do it for real, we’re good to go.”

Additionally, the training aimed to emulate a capability found in many other states, called a Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, or HART, comprised of civilian first responders as well as military and civilian aviation assets.

“Our intent was to incorporate all of the individual training we have conducted over the past year, replicate a realistic disaster situation where a HART would be required and to demonstrate its feasibility, interoperability and tremendous capacity to save lives.”

The training also helped to further strengthen the working relationships with Chesterfield Fire & EMS, who trains frequently with the Lakota detachment.

“We look forward to continuing the training commitment we have established with our current partners in the emergency response community, as well as expand our abilities to meet emergency needs within the Virginia National Guard aviation community,” Loy said. “We have the ability and resources to make a difference for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and will continue to plan and train in preparation for that possibility.”

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment conduct hoist rescue training with personnel from the Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Squad during their annual training June 9, 2014, in Chesterfield, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Photos: Va. Guard Lakota flight crews train with local first responders – June 9, 2014