Guard Helicopter Crew Awarded for Saving 6 Lives

Sometimes even first responders can get caught up in the same dangerous predicament as the people they’re trying to help, especially during flash floods.

Four members of the Louisiana Army National Guard were honored last month by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division for their aerial rescue of six people, including the LDWF’s SGT Rusty Perry and Winn Parish Firefighter Buddy King. The men’s boat capsized as they tried to evacuate people from a flooded area in Winnfield, La., on March 10, 2016.

The Guardsmen, CW5 Jack Mucha, CW2 Corey Sayer, SSG Chad McCann and SGT Aaron Adam, all members of the Bayou 69 Black Hawk Helicopter crew, were awarded the Citizens Exceptional Bravery Awards for their efforts.

When Perry and King could not be reached by other vessels or high water vehicles, the Black Hawk crew performed an aerial rescue in a less than ideal spot that required precision hover work, as told by the crew in the video below:

“There was probably only about 10 feet between the power lines and the edge of the trees,” said SSG McCann, whose job it was to lower SGT Adam down to the stranded men. Adding to the pressure was the fact that no one knew whether the power lines were still active, said Pilot CW5 Mucha.

“It was a nail biter for sure,” said CW5 Mucha, whose mind was also on the mission he and the rest of Bayou 69 were originally scheduled to be doing that day – a flyover of a memorial honoring the MOJO 69 crew – four fellow Louisiana Guardsmen and seven Marines – who had been killed in a helicopter crash on March 10 one year prior.

“We did not want to be accident No. 2,” he said.

It was also a close call for Perry and King, who needed immediate medical attention after being stuck in cold water for a few hours, according to COL John Plunkett, who is now Bayou 69’s commanding officer.

At the awards ceremony last month, “The one individual said that he was actually hypothermic, and close to not being able to hold on to the item he was holding on to,” said COL Plunkett. “[The Guardsmen] were pretty much their last hope for getting those guys out of there.”

After safely retrieving the two men, the crew then returned to the area to rescue the two people Perry and King were trying to help, plus two other stranded first responders.

CW5 Mucha said the only comparable mission he could think of was the hoist work and rescues he had done during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The most rewarding mission you can do is doing Medevac, and saving lives in combat and here in the State,” said CW5 Mucha, who has been a pilot since 1980. Mucha said most of his Medevac missions have been along the coastline, “so it was nice to help some people in our local area.”

So if you’re looking for a job with a mission, the Army National Guard offers 130 career choices, and not just in aviation. Check out our job board for more information on careers in administration, military police, infantry, mechanics and maintenance, logistics support, and more. For a complete rundown of the benefits of joining the Guard, contact your local recruiter.

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Guard Honored for Tool Designed to Speed Up Response Times

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Guard Bureau’s Joint Intelligence Directorate recently received an award for developing a program that gives Guard members and local authorities better situational awareness to speed up their response to emergencies, natural disasters, and large-scale events.

The Directorate was awarded the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s Government Achievement Award for its work on the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool, or DAART, developed in partnership with the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.

DAART is a web-based program that pulls together geospatial intelligence assets from a variety of sources, including terrain and mapping information from the U.S. Geologic Survey, as well as video feeds from overhead aircraft, and satellite imagery.

“The computing power we have and the ability to bring in information from all these disparate sources, you can really paint a picture for the commander,” said Thomas Merrill, head of National Guard Bureau’s Joint Intelligence Plans and Policy Branch.

The program, which debuted last year, stems from an earlier web-based system, but has added capabilities that provide users with close to real-time imagery, as well as interactive features that speed up communications between responding agencies.

“You’re bringing all sorts of information in, and it displays it geospatially,” said Merrill. “Any operation that you’re doing, you can see right now in either real-time or near real-time what’s going on.”

That gives Guard members the ability to respond faster in emergency situations, said Merrill. The program allows commanders to assess rapidly changing conditions, such as road closures in a large-scale flooding incident.

“[Those] who are responding, they’ll know which routes are still open and which ones to avoid,” Merrill said, adding that most people are saved within the first 72 hours after an emergency or catastrophic event occurs.

“The faster that we can get in there to get to people who are caught in voids or who are definitely in distress – the elderly or those who are isolated – the more people who can be saved,” he said.

DAART can be accessed not only by the Guard, but also by State and local authorities, or other responding agencies.

“It really highlights the Guard’s ability to harness technology at the most local level,” said Merrill. “It puts the Guard member at street level, if need be, along with the sheriff’s deputy or the local police, and they’re all looking at the same thing.”

Those capabilities speak to the Guard’s primary mission of serving the community.

DAART has already been used in a variety of missions, said Merrill, including the Presidential Inauguration in January and during last year’s wildfire response operations in California. During the wildfire response, it was instrumental in helping rescuers find a lost hiker.

Soldiers with the California Army National Guard’s 578th Brigade Engineer Battalion and 40th Brigade head out while responding to wildfires in July 2016. Last year’s California wildfire response saw one of the first uses of the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Tool, or DAART, a web-based program that pulls together geospatial information from a variety of sources, including terrain and mapping data, video feeds from overhead aircraft, and satellite imagery.

“It was the first time it had been used to find a missing person,” said Merrill. “It helped rule out areas where she may have been. When they figured out where she was, they used the program to help vector in the search team, and she was saved.”

Merrill said he and his team are working on fine-tuning DAART and expanding its capabilities.

“It will save time, and it will save lives,” he said.

So, if you’re interested in working with, or even on, equipment to help your community in its time of need, consider joining the Army National Guard, where Soldiers serve part-time. The Guard offers training in more than 130 careers, described on our job board. And for more information about all the benefits that come with Guard service, like money for college, contact your local recruiter.

From an original story by SFC Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in June 2017.

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Guard Sniper School Trains Soldiers to Take Out Targets and Provide Battlefield Intelligence

Becoming a sniper in the Army National Guard won’t get you extra pay or even a patch on your uniform, but this Additional Skill Identifier, which will be added to your military records, is highly coveted among Soldiers.

That’s because sniper school is hard to get into in the first place. It’s also highly demanding, according to Staff Sergeant (SSG) Aaron Pierce, an instructor at the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center in North Little Rock, Ark., one of two Army schools that offer sniper training.

The school is limited to Soldiers in the 11 and 18 series of Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs). The 11 series covers 11B Infantryman and 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman. The 18 series are jobs in Special Forces.

SSG Pierce explains that typically a Unit’s Scout platoon holds competitions to test Soldiers’ land navigation, marksmanship, and physical training to determine which Soldier gets to go to the school, which lasts 42 days with no breaks and many 18-hour days. Only 160 Soldiers are accepted to Pierce’s school per year.

SSG Aaron Pierce (at right), a Sniper School instructor with the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, coaches a student.

SSG Aaron Pierce (at right), a Sniper School instructor with the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, coaches a student.

SSG Pierce recommends that Soldiers be in the top percentages of the PT scores because the job is physically demanding. Instead of a normal 35-pound rucksack, a sniper might carry 60 pounds on his back and have to walk a number of miles or even crawl to accomplish the mission.

Intestinal fortitude is a must-have, according to SSG Pierce.

“You’re using powered optics. You’re going to know whether you’ve eliminated that individual target,” says SSG Pierce, who turned down Army Ranger School to attend Sniper School in 2007. “You’re going to see it. It’s going to be personal.”

Also: “In the sniper world, you are in the business of hunting men,” he says. “There is a very high risk of capture or being killed because you don’t have a lot of support.”

Book smarts also play a role.

“Your ASVAB score has to be significant to attend this school. There are a lot of formulations. It is academically demanding,” says SSG Pierce. “If you struggle in mathematics, you are going to suffer badly in this school.”

Students must also have received an expert rifle qualification within the last 6 months.

But being a sniper isn’t just about pulling the trigger. When you go to sniper school, you’ll learn two roles – being a sniper and being the spotter, or the person who does most of the calculations to ensure the round meets the target.

“You have to know both jobs equally. If you’re a sniper, then you’re also a spotter,” says SSG Pierce.

For more about that, see the video below.

In fact, the more senior sniper typically works as the spotter who uses a kestrel, a hand-held ballistic computer, and a data book that contains DOPE, or Data of Previous Engagement. The distance of each target requires an elevation dialed onto the scope. The kestrel takes in the muzzle velocity, atmospheric conditions, and the caliber of the weapon to provide the elevation, and all of this is recorded in the data book.

The tricky part for the spotter, says SSG Pierce, is using an optic to read the wind – both for speed and direction.

“The bullet is going to curve in to the target, so if the wind is blowing left to right, we need to dial our crosshairs to the left because we know the bullet is going to be pushed to the right.”

SSG Pierce says the first three weeks of school are devoted to shooting moving and stationary objects, and estimating range. The second half is more marksmanship work, plus fieldcraft, which is stalking a target while remaining undetectable thanks to a ghillie suit. The suit provides camouflage that can be adjusted by attaching surrounding foliage to it.

Despite all the cool gadgets and stealthy moves, SSG Pierce says the job of a sniper isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem.

“Even though your primary mission is to deliver precision rifle fire, the secondary mission of a sniper is to collect battlefield information.”

While deployed to Iraq, SSG Pierce split his duties between conducting infantry patrols and operations and his role as a sniper. Most of his sniper missions involved watching main supply routes.

“You’re collecting information for follow-on forces most of the time. It’s mission first and not your own desires to use your skills to engage targets.”

And while being a sniper may not translate directly to a civilian job other than working on a SWAT team, when explained correctly to a potential employer, this Additional Skill Identifier has its merits, says SSG Pierce.

“You can certainly say that it is a very demanding school that only a small percentage of Soldiers attend. It requires intelligence, discipline, intestinal fortitude, and physical fitness,” says SSG Pierce. “It requires you to think outside the box and make snap, educated decisions. Certainly those disciplines can be applied to other things.”

So, if you’re ready to test your discipline, consider joining the Army National Guard, which, besides Infantry and Special Forces jobs, offers training in more than 130 careers. Search our job board by location, job field, or keyword, or contact your local recruiter for personalized advice.

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