May 18, 2016 (CAMP RIPLEY, Minnesota) — Helicopter crews of the Minnesota National Guard joined firefighters May 6-9, 2016, in northern Minnesota to battle wildfires.
In response to requests made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Governor Mark Dayton authorized the use of four UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and support personnel to assist in suppression of wildfires across the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
“Our mission was to provide aviation support to the wildfire suppression missions which assisted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,” said Maj. Jeremy Degier, aviation duty officer.
Minnesota Army National Guard rotary-wing assets were used in a coordinated effort amongst interagency partner assets to suppress wildfires, which successfully minimized the impact on the people, property and environment of Minnesota.
The Minnesota National Guard dispatched two of its UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the Army Aviation Support Facility in St. Cloud as a response to the fire May 6 near Skibo. Additional support came May 7 with two more aircraft from C Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion-211th Aviation Regiment. Support personnel from the 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth also joined the fight providing fuelers and vehicles.
“We started out dropping water from our ‘Bambi Buckets’ on the Skibo fire then moving to Hibbing; working with ground teams from the DNR,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Drew Glaze, UH-60 Blackhawk pilot with C, 2-211th. “They got us on target and guided us in for the best overall results.”
The cooperation between the Army and Air National Guard units and civilian organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Department of National Resources stems from a long-standing practice of interagency cooperation and training.
“Our unit trains with the DNR on water drops and fire suppression up at Camp Ripley annually,” said Glaze. “It’s the best way to work on our communications and operation.”
Before the fire season begins in Minnesota, Army aviation crews and wildfire teams from the Department of Natural Resources work together to train on fire suppression using air and ground assets collectively.
“Over the years our training program and joint cooperation exercises with the DNR have continued to improve and develop into a very successful partnership,” said Capt. Shaun Meling, Liaison Officer for the wildfire mission.
by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey
Camp Ripley Public Affairs