Okla. National Guard has "Downed Aircraft Training" sessions

Fort Sill_When a helicopter crashes in enemy territory, the flight crew calls for help, but if help can't get to the chopper for at least five hours, what happens to the crew?  Fort Sill mobilized two National Guard Units this week to show them what to do in the event something such as this happens, to prepare them for deployment in Afghanistan and Kuwait in "Downed Aircraft Training" sessions.

The sound of a helicopter coming to the rescue is music to the ears of any soldier behind enemy lines, but if it can't land or gets attacked, soldiers need to be ready.  National Guard Warrant Officer Eric Aguilar is deploying to Afghanistan and says he's looking forward to the training.  "In case of a downed aircraft, it teaches you what to do and what not to do, training us so we get back home safely," he says.

But, the training mission isn't over quickly, and it's not easy.  "This is a five-hour training mission, but every second counts," says Aguilar.  "These men may encounter combat together and need to know how to work as a team in the case of an emergency."

The first thing soldiers do, is to attend a briefing to learn the details of their mission.  Then, it's off to the downed helicopter - set up as if it has crashed.  Nighthawk Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lee Medley says they are trained to secure the aircraft, and radio for a pickup.  Medley laid out a scenario.  "They actually are forced to land, they're shot down.  Their sister ship comes in to pick them up.  That doesn't work out for them...," he says.  "We are located 50 feet to the rear of the helicopter."

But, the Rescue Chinook Helicopter is "shot at" by hostile forces, and they are forced to abandon the rescue.  The crew has to move out, and wait for the next helicopter, using everything they've been taught in order to survive.  "It teaches them the confidence in their equipment, the confidence in their systems," says Warrant Officer Jose Mendez.  "So, in the event they are shot down, and they are not rescued immediately by their sister ship, they have the tools and means necessary to survive."  The crew got through the exercise without a scratch, says Aguilar.  "It gives us a little more confidence on what to do - when we hit the ground, we hit the ground running."

There are 24 crews training on the Chinook Helicopters for the remainder of the week.  The post will provide training for crews flying Blackhawk Helicopters.