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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Leading the Double Life of a Citizen-Soldier®

Fresh out of high school, Reanna Alvarez didn’t go off to college the following fall like the rest of her friends after graduation. If she wanted to pursue a degree, she was going to have to find a way to pay for it herself.

A friend mentioned that he was getting his school paid for through the Army National Guard, a branch of the military Alvarez hadn’t heard of, where Soldiers serve one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

The fact that Guard service was a part-time commitment carried a lot of appeal for Alvarez while she was mulling her options at age 19.

“You could be in the military, choose an MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] that you’re interested in, and then on the civilian side, you could do the same thing,” explains Alvarez. “You have the experience from the military that you could utilize as a civilian. Then, while you’re a civilian, you can be going to school.”

Now a specialist with the Maryland Army National Guard for the past five years, Alvarez’s MOS is 92A Automated Logistical Specialist. In her Engineering Unit, she is responsible mainly for vehicle dispatch, keeping track of keys and personnel paperwork. She also tests her Unit’s equipment, like gas masks, to make sure they are working properly. On the civilian side, SPC Alvarez says the job is comparable to working at a distribution center.

SPC Reanna Alvarez

SPC Reanna Alvarez

When she’s not at drill, at home with her two kids, or doing homework for college, where she studies psychology, SPC Alvarez is a waitress, where her co-workers marvel at her ability to stay calm in any situation.

“The Guard gives you so many traits you can use as a civilian,” she explains. “I’ve gone through Basic [Training], where you have so much going on, there’s people yelling, and so much thrown at you that it makes civilian life look like a piece of cake.”

SPC Alvarez had a harder time at Basic Training than others might. She was battling an eating disorder, and a Drill Sergeant had found out. That led to a meeting with the Commander who could have easily sent her home.

Instead, she received encouragement.

“He told me he saw a lot of potential in me and that I shouldn’t let [the eating disorder] define me, and he really wanted me to push myself.”

Part of the reason she’s chosen psychology for a major is because of her struggle with the eating disorder that started when she was 16, and partly because she wants to be able to help veterans someday.

In the meantime, she’s helped out at two major events close to home in her capacity as a Guard Soldier – the Baltimore riots, which took place in spring 2015, and more recently, the Presidential Inauguration last month.

“I think it’s very cool knowing that I’m going to be able to tell my kids someday, whenever they can understand, that I was part of that experience … not only at the inauguration, but pulling security for the inauguration.”

Another cool thing she can tell her kids is that she was in a National Guard commercial that tied in to the 2013 “Man of Steel” Superman movie. SPC Alvarez was one of about 20 Soldiers who were chosen out of thousands of applicants to fly out to Hollywood to shoot the commercial and meet the director of the film. You can spot SPC Alvarez walking on the sidewalk in a gray and black striped sweater at the 6-second mark:

SPC Alvarez says the connection between Superman and the National Guard is, that like Clark Kent/Superman, the Guard Soldier also leads a double life as part-time citizen/part-time Soldier.

Even in stressful circumstances, like the Baltimore riots that lasted for several days, SPC Alvarez says people were grateful to have Soldiers on hand.

“People were constantly telling us, ‘thank you for being here. Thank you for making us feel safe.’ At the end of the day, that’s all we try to do.”

So if you’re interested in keeping your community and the Nation safe, consider joining the National Guard, where you can train in one of 150 different career fields and take advantage of great benefits like money for college. Search our job board for descriptions of each career, or contact a recruiter for personalized attention. 

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