News: Arizona Aviations train to fight fires
Story by Sgt. Adrian Borunda
PHOENIX - Members of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment, home to the Arizona Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk unit, trained from May 16 to 19 learning to use Bambi Buckets to fight wildfires, and about fire survival and safety.
"Our mission is to provide qualified pilots, crew chiefs, and aircraft to both the Arizona State Forestry Department and the U.S. Forest Service in preparation for supporting wild land firefighting operations in and around Arizona," said Chief Warrant 3 Richard Klauer, an instructor pilot with 2-285th Aviation Regiment.
Since Bambi Bucket training with the partner agencies only occurs once a year for this aviation unit, training is crucial for everyone involved.
"Training using the Bambi Bucket, which is the aerial water delivery system, is not something that we practice on a daily basis," Klauer said. "Rigging the equipment and working together with our partner agencies for this annual event is something that we look forward to each year. Continuous improvement is always our goal."
Klauer says this vital mission to the state is handled by experienced, professional Arizona Army National Guard aviators and says with confidence that the unit is ready to assist in any way.
"Many of our pilots have aerial firefighting experience both in the National Guard and from civilian employment. We've mobilized to fires in Arizona and California where our training was tested under the most demanding conditions," Klauer said.
Chief Warrant 2 Lance Thurston, a mission pilot in command for 2-285th Aviation Regiment, notes the intricate harmony of fire fighting with a Black Hawk. The strategies of this operation are complex. With the help of ground support, two pilots and crew members assisting with ensuring the buckets fill with water and successfully drop the water on target, teamwork is imperative.
"Fire fighting from the air is a complicated and orchestrated dance," Thurston said. "It takes a skilled pilot, in conjunction with your crew, to make sure you have successful contact with the water supply and the fire."
During this three-day event, more than 10 pilots and several crew chiefs were trained in preparation for the coming fire season.