News: Downed aircraft training tests emergency communications equipment
Story by Sgt. Christopher Bruce
CAMP GRUBER, Okla. – An Oklahoma Army National Guard aviation unit recently conducted the first downed helicopter training to utilize a satellite radio to transmit and receive rescue messages.
Members of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation, Oklahoma Army National Guard, conducted and participated in the mock helicopter crash on June 26, at Camp Gruber near Braggs, Okla.
Spc. Robert Maggard played the role of stranded Army aviator for the exercise. After exiting the helicopter, Maggard used a Combat Survivor Evader Locater radio to notify his command in Tulsa, Okla., of the crash and inform them of his location. A few minutes later, he received a reply with detailed instructions on where to go for extraction.
“We now have the ability to intercept the transmissions going up to the satellites,” Eldridge said. “Instead of going to a real world survival situation, we are able to intercept that message and bring it to our [secure] computer room.”
Eldridge says it currently takes about 24 hours to set up a training exercise using a CSEL. In the past, it’s taken up to six-weeks to get the necessary approvals to conduct this type of training due to the inability to intercept the messages.
Once Maggard learned his helicopter was simulating a crash landing, he grabbed his CSEL, waited for touch-down and exited the helicopter. After taking cover, he alerted his unit that he was stranded deep in the woods. After a few minutes, his command sent back a message with directions to a secured landing zone where he would be picked up.
“This is not only a great tool for combat, but this can even be applied in CONUS [stateside] operations,” Eldridge said. “In the event you do go down in a rural area where there is no cell phone coverage. You pull this out of your pocket and activate it and it will go real world.”
Maggard waited at the landing zone until the rescue helicopter landed. In the interest of crew safety, he was placed in wrist restraints, until he could be positively identified, loaded onto the rescue aircraft and flown back to the unit’s headquarters in Tulsa.
Through this training, Maggard now has a better understanding of how the CSEL radio works, which is good since it may save his life one day.
“If I go down in theater, I want to know how to operate the equipment and how to properly get rescued,” Maggard said. “This is good training.”