NEWS | April 2, 2016

Aviation conducts domestic operations training

By Spc. Avery Cunningham 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

Hurricane Irene affected many states on the East Coast including Vermont in 2011. The storm caused flooding and was responsible for an estimated $6.5 billion in total losses in the United States according to the National Weather Service. The National Guard was prepared for the disaster, and in response thousands of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen swiftly mobilized to support civilian authorities.

The Vermont National Guard will host "Vigilant Guard - Vermont 2016" at Camp Johnson, Colchester, Vermont. It is a national level emergency response exercise sponsored by the National Guard and United States Northern Command. Federal, state, and local agencies will train together to improve cooperation and prepare to respond to a man-made or natural disaster, special event or other domestic emergency in a collaborative effort.

To prepare, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance) started conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) missions from the Army Aviation Support Facility, South Burlington, Vt., April 2, 2016.

The DSCA training involved lowering a medic on a hoist to assist a crashed pilot, raising the casualty into the aircraft with the hoist, and responding to a mass casualty scenario with other medevacs.

"We're doing aerial medevac DSCA training in preparation for Vigilant Guard," said Capt. James Lewandowski, forward support medevac platoon leader, C/3-126th AVN (AA).

The unit will participate in faster versions of the simulated missions during Vigilant Guard.

"We're practicing, working out the bugs, perfecting our techniques, so that when we do the real DSCA mission and perform with the rest of the state, all of our operating procedures are solid, and we have a good battle rhythm," said Lewandowski.

The company is taking an approach that builds up to the main event. "We're using the crawl-walk-run method," said Lewandowski. The first phase, crawl, is receiving basic training on operations.

"Crawl means we go very slowly, an instructor will teach and show how something is done," said Sgt. Carlton Quenneville, crew chief, C/3-126th AVN (AA).

The next phase, which they conducted over the weekend, is walking. This part of the method requires utilizing what they learned in the crawl phase. "Most of the training we do is the walk phase where we're trying to show all those new things," said Quenneville. "Today is the culmination, actually showing all the stuff we've learned and done, putting it into action, and actually doing what we've trained for."

From that phase, they will progress to a quicker, full speed pace. "The run phase is the big exercises like our annual training or Vigilant Guard where we've combined with the ground guys, other states, and other agencies, with multiple sites going at once," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Couture, line medevac pilot, C/3-126th AVN (AA).

Their training, in the walking phase, had an emphasis on accuracy as opposed to speed."There is more deliberate planning, teaching us to slow down and go assist in a non-combat area," said Couture.

Following the procedures carefully highlights any difficulty the crew may have with the aircraft or operations. "We definitely found areas that stumped us a little bit or were unique situations, but every mission is a unique situation. There are no two missions alike," said Quenneville. "By doing it today, we were able to keep our proficiency up and actually work as a team."

The teamwork extends outside the scope of the crew of a single helicopter to all the units as one. "This has given us the opportunity to do a lot of flying and really perfecting our skillsets and practice as a team," said Lewandowski. "There is nothing better than collective training."

The crawl-walk-run approach by the aviation unit has proven a success with the training running smoothly and missions being achieved. "It went very well, everyone was safe, and we were able to get the mission accomplished," said Couture.