Army National Guard plucks aircrew out of Tobesofkee in drill

lfabian@macon.comAugust 4, 2013 

Lake Tobesofkee Director Doug Furney and Georgia Department of Natural Resources ranger Tony Fox watch from a patrol boat Sunday morning as the Air and Army National Guard members practice air extraction rescues at Lake Tobesofkee.

DONN RODENROTH — Special to The Telegraph

A Black Hawk helicopter hovered Sunday morning over Lake Tobesofkee.

An Army National Guard crew, flying from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to training at Fort Stewart, stopped in Bibb County long enough to help five aviators brush up on their survival skills.

The four men and one woman from the 116th Air Control Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard at Robins Air Force Base were treading water in the middle of the lake.

The names of most of those involved could not be released due to security concerns.

Bright orange inflated pillows under their arms were all you could see of them as the HH-60/M MEDIVAC helicopter churned up the water into a misty fog.

From the open door of the chopper, a tow line lowered to meet them.

“That was entirely awesome,” said a major who clung to the hoist and was lifted into the chopper. “We train for survival techniques when we go to class, but you never really get a chance to do something like this. It was an awesome opportunity.”

The joint exercise was the first time the Army National Guard has assisted its counterpart in the Air National Guard in this type of exercise.

“We all have different assets, and I think it’s really important that we can leverage those and be able to help each other,” said Lt. Alfredo Matos, of the Army National Guard. “I think it’s great.”

A staff sergeant from the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, gave the hoist levers a try before having to lower them in the water.

“Most of my water survival training has been in a pool, so I’m excited to be hoisted up by an actual helicopter,” she stated in a news release about the exercise.

Members of the Air National Guard have initial training with helicopters, but rely on simulations for subsequent drills, said the assistant director of operations for the 128th Georgia Air National Guard.

“This is a great opportunity for us to do it for real,” he said.

The drill began with the helicopter launching from the parking lot at Sandy Beach.

A tech sergeant of the 116th Air Control Wing placed a red headset on his baby daughter to protect her ears before the chopper took off and circled over the lake.

A major who coordinated the safety response for his colleagues in the 116th said: “We’re moving to the Pacific theater of interest, so there’s a lot of water over there and this will help do some of the water recovery if we were to get in a situation.”

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.


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