Air crews from the Wisconsin Army National Guard played an important role in the 2014 Patriot Exercise held July 21-24 at Volk Field, Wisconsin.
Soldiers from the Madison, Wisconsin-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation and the West Bend, Wisconsin-based 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation, participated in the annual exercise that tests the National Guardís ability to respond to domestic scenarios.
The exercise, organized annually by the National Guard Bureau, includes a variety of scenarios ranging from downed aircraft, rubble pile searches and medical evacuation missions to chemical and biological scenarios and mass casualty situations.
Air crews from two Wisconsin Army National Guard units flew missions in support of the exercise. Two UH-60 Black Hawk medevac aircrafts from the West Bend unit flew medevac training missions while two other Black Hawks from the Madison unit flew transport missions in support of the exercise.
Lt. Col. Scott Bush, Wisconsinís branch chief for aviation operations, said the Patriot Exercise offers the air crews an opportunity to train for the wide variety of different roles they could face in real-world disaster scenarios or when supporting civil authorities in a domestic operation.
Bush said National Guard helicopters could be called on to air lift injured civilians from remote areas, provide medical treatment, shuttle emergency managers to disaster areas, or fight wildfires. In natural disaster scenarios, local emergency services could be overwhelmed, or ground transportation infrastructure could be impassable, making the National Guard and its air assets a viable alternative.
ìWhat it does for us is it kind of takes us out of our military role and gets us into that domestic environment, which is a little different than what weíre accustomed to,î Bush said. ìIt also allows us to give the civilian authorities an idea of what capabilities we do have, because theyíre basically asking for an asset to provide certain criteria.
ìIt falls right into our state mission of providing trained individuals, the right resources and the right amount of people to complete that mission.î
In one scenario, a team of Air National Guardsmen parachuted into a remote area of Volk Field and provided first aid medical treatment to two victims and radioed for a medevac aircraft. An air crew from the 238th arrived in minutes, loaded the victims aboard the Black Hawk and transported them to an aid station for further treatment.
That kind of training is relatively routine for a unit dedicated to medevac, but conducting that same mission in a civil-military environment differs greatly from the day-to-day military training and operations these Soldiers usually encounter.
Civilian first responders use different radio networks as well as different terms and acronyms from those in the military. There are differences too between the Army and Air National Guard forces and a need to understand different capabilities and de-conflict airspace.
ìWe have a lot of communications issues we need to overcome, because everybodyís on different radio systems,î Bush said. ìThatís a huge training takeaway from this thing.î
And any additional experience in treating casualties and operating the aircraft also proves valuable when it comes time to execute a real-world mission in Wisconsin or in support of a federal mission.
Sgt. Dan Krueger, a crew chief with the 238th, said the experience at Patriot was a valuable one, because it helped him see how other entities, including the Air Force, operate. It helped, he said, to work with organizations outside the Army medical units to which he is accustomed.
ìItís an adventure every time you go out, and you get a positive feeling that youíre helping somebody every time you go and do it,î he said.