Inside the Gates: Kentucky Air National Guardsmen train in Kachemak Bay
Kentucky Air National Guardsmen of the of 123rd Special Tactics Squadron got a taste of the Kachemak Bay this week. The group trained with Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 211th Rescue Squadron by doing static-line jumps into ocean waters near Homer.
"We came and brought our team up here to Alaska so that we could really stress ourselves in the environment and make sure that we have the right equipment to support one of our future mission sets in taking some special aircraft across the Atlantic," 1st Lt. Oliver Smith with the Kentucky Air National Guard said.
The squadron is from Louisville, Kentucky. They say they're used to dealing with cold water, but Alaska offers a few new challenges.
"There's still some pretty cold water in Ohio," Smith said. "The chance to get out into the open ocean, to have big waves and just Alaska, there's nothing like it. So we're really grateful to the 212th here for supporting us and allowing us to come up and use some of their equipment and really pick their brains."
The Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron provided the facilities and equipment while members from the 211th Rescue Squadron flew and loaded the HC-130 used in the water drops. The pararescuemen are all from Kentucky's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.
"I would feel comfortable grabbing any of the Alaska guys here and putting them on the mission today even on a short notice like this," Smith said.
Hosting this type of training is something the Alaska Air National Guard doesn't get to do too often.
"A lot of times we end up going to the Lower 48 in order to do a lot of the training that we need with a lot of other users," Major Anthony Waliser, Combat Systems Officer with the 211th Squadron, said. "We go to red flags and stuff like that usually once a year. But, having something like that come up here is more rare than us going somewhere else to make sure we get the training we need with other users and get the experience."
The exercise involves the HC-130 taking off from JBER and flying over the Kachemak Bay. Waliser is in charge of finding the drop spot.
Once located, he notifies the loadmaster who calculates the right time to release the equipment into the ocean. Then, a small RAM-B or Rigging Alternate Method boat, which is deflated and packed with parachutes, is dropped in the bay.
Waliser then notifies the jumpmaster of the correct position. The jumpmaster tosses streamers as close to the cargo as possible. When it's time for the pararescuemen to jump, they look for the streamers and use them as a guide to get as close to the cargo as possible. Once in the water, they unpack the boat, allow it to inflate and use it to save a mock person in distress.
"With the potential for an aircraft to strike the ocean surface, you could have severe traumatic injuries," Smith said. "If a wing were to catch a wave and cartwheel in, it could be as simple as a flat belly landing and the pilot, co-pilot and other crew members are able to get out of the aircraft and we're just picking them up."
The guardsmen say it's just another way to be ready for the call whenever it comes in. The water drops took place on Tuesday and Thursday; the Kentucky sqaudron flies back to Louisville on Saturday.
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