News: Illinois Aviation trains disaster relief in ‘Patriot’ exercise
Story by Sgt. Charlie Helmholt
FORT MCCOY, Wis. - Members of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment (1-106th) out of Decatur, Ill., travelled to Wisconsin with their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to conduct training, and participate in the annual joint service and multi-national disaster response exercise dubbed ‘Patriot’, taking place July 13-27.
The Patriot exercise simulates the occurrence of natural disasters. The exercise is comprised of three separate tornadoes and several terrorists attack scenarios. This combination of conditions is designed to overwhelm the first responder teams prompting a National Guard emergency response.
“What is great for us is the designers allow us to custom design the specific training that we would like to focus on, and they then build the scenario and work in that type of training,” said Maj. Dennis Huffman from Heyworth, Ill., the executive officer of the 106th.
Huffman said although the unit helped design some elements of the training, the unit will not know exactly what and when it will take place.
“One of our biggest training values comes from not knowing the mission, being able as a unit to plan the route and then fly over unknown terrain and into unknown landing zones,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Adam D. Kellerman of Pinckneyville, Ill., a pilot with Company A, 1-106th.
Kellerman said there is a lot the unit can do at Fort McCoy that they cannot do in Illinois.
“We can get in the corridors they have up here and fly the terrain, right on the tops of trees through the valleys, and that is something that the crews don’t get to experience every day,” said Kellerman.
While at Fort McCoy the unit will use its time training new pilots and crew as well as conducting missions to support other units outside of Patriot.
“We are here as an aviation support element, supporting the Air Force and the Wisconsin National Guard to facilitate these operations,” said Huffman. “We are then also able to jump over and support other Illinois units training here.”
Black Hawk aircraft and crews are a resource to Illinois and its neighboring states if an emergency should arise.
“In addition to being able to move a large amount of personnel and or equipment, aviation can provide critical reconnaissance and surveillance of sites, in case of fire, flooding or hazardous material conditions that may prevent ground access,” said Capt. Chris Lempke of Bloomington, Ill., commander of Company A.
Sgt. Charles L. Venegoni a firefighter and former Marine from Arnold, Mo., is now a crew chief with Company A, and is using this training to get familiar with the Black Hawk.
Crew chiefs act as a peripheral sight for the pilots and are also responsible for what is in the back of the aircraft, be it passengers or equipment, said Venegoni.
“I was a crew chief with the Marines also, on the CH-53, but it’s nice to have this kind of training so that I can get adapted to the Black Hawk,” said Venegoni.
From the pilots and crew of the aircraft, to unit planning and support, this training allows the unit to accomplish multiple tasks during a single exercise.
“We are out here for a great training opportunity, an opportunity that will allow us to get to and maintain readiness level one, which means that we are fully mission capable,” said Kellerman.
Date Posted:07.22.2013 11:37
Location:FORT MCCOY, WI, US
Hometown:ARNOLD, MO, US
Hometown:BLOOMINGTON, IL, US
Hometown:HEYWORTH, IL, US
Hometown:PINCKNEYVILLE, IL, US
Hometown:SALEM, IL, US