NEWS

Higher Ground

U.S. Army Sgt. Jamie Eastman assigned to Charlie Company 3rd Batallion 126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), Vermont National Guard, guides citizens of Wilmington, Vt., to a HH-60M Blackhawk during an evacuation mission during Vigilant Guard 2016 in Wilmington, Vt., July 29, 2016. Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise, sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM, which provides National Guard units an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with regional civilian, military, and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events. (U.S. Air National Guard
photo by Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Tatro)
Story by Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Tatro

Pilots and crew members assigned to Charlie Company 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), Vermont National Guard, prepare for an evacuation mission out of Wilmington, Vt. During exercise Vigilant Guard 2016 a simulated disaster occurred, causing a water dam to burst requiring citizens to be evacuated. The helicopter crews were notified that up to 25 citizens were trapped and would need to be evacuated to a higher location away from torrential floodwaters overtaking over the town.

Vigilant Guard 2016 is a multi-state and agency initiative where National Guard, active duty military, civilian, and federal partners work together to improve tactics when it comes to disaster response. The scenarios within Vigilant Guard 2016 vary from chemical, biological, radiological threats, cyber security, and natural disaster response.

“We train every drill how to respond to help people,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patricia Osborn, a pilot with Charlie C/3-126th AVN (AA). “This Vigilant Guard exercise helps us maintain communication with the local agencies, local EMT services, local fire departments, and police departments and learning how to work with them incase a national disaster.”

Once notified of their tasking, the crewmembers began to gear up and headed out to the flight line to load the Blackhawks. Knowing this was a medical emergency, the crew made sure they brought all the necessary supplies to respond with at the scene.

“We don’t perform medical evacuations on a regular basis, so this exercise gives us a relief scenario, especially being in a local area and seeing what could happen,” said Osborn. “We are surveying areas we’ve never been to before…this is all helpful.”

Off the ground in less than fifteen minutes, the crew started the flight to Wilmington. As the helicopter landed, the eyes of the citizens grew bigger in hope of a rescue. Being a simulated rescue, the people of Wilmington were excited to ride in a HH-60M Blackhawk.

“From our standpoint, being able to work with local Vermonters to get this taken care of and the training aspect of it was great for us,” said Sgt. Jamie Eastman a Flight Paramedic with Charlie C/3-126th AVN (AA). “Very rarely do we have a mission where we get to interact with non military personnel for a flight let alone anything else.”

From pre-to-post mission, things went very smoothly for Charlie Company. Being a National Guard asset, the Green Mountain Boys are here for the citizens of Vermont. Vigilant Guard 2016 has served as a training mechanism for an incredible amount of personnel, military and civilians alike. The skills learned will help support citizens of Vermont and America when the time comes to respond to a disaster.

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