US Army, April 24, 2018 - KOTZEBUE, ALASKA by 1st Lt Marquel Coaxum - U.S. and Canadian service members assigned to exercise Arctic Care 2018 here have a critical mission.
More than just your average training, the Arctic Care Innovative Readiness Training team was hand-selected to provide medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary care in one of the most remote places in the United States.
Partnering with the Maniilaq Association and civil authorities in Kotzebue, Alaska, the mission is to assist local health and municipal authorities in addressing underserved and unmet community health and civic needs in 12 villages of the Northwest Arctic Borough.
With this mission came the movement of all the associated medical supplies needed to make the mission happen in the remote villages, all of which aren’t connected to the main city of Kotzebue by road.
Kotzebue, a city of approximately 3500 residents, is surrounded by water, which turns into a solid frozen ocean in the colder winter and spring months.
That’s where the Alaska Army National Guard’s 207th Aviation Regiment and its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters enter the grid.
“Air operations for this exercise can’t be overstated,” said U.S. Navy Lt Cmdr. John Ladd, the Arctic Care 2018 air operations manager. “We have to reach out to a number of outlying villages, and having the Black Hawks available makes that aspect of the mission possible.”
Ready and Able
One of the more noticable helicopter airframes in the U.S. inventory, the Black Hawk can carry people and their cargo anywhere in almost any weather.
In Kotzebue, the day’s forecast can change at any moment, so the 207th stays at the ready to jump in to action, getting the medical crews to and from the outlying villages as quickly and as safely as possible.
“The soldiers of Bravo Company 1-207th Assault Helicopter Battalion are some of the best aviators the Army produces,” said Army Capt. Anthony Rivas, the Bravo Company commander. “We specialize in arctic operations and deal with some of the most extreme conditions on the planet.”
“Arctic Care 2018 gives the pilots, crews and maintainers of the Alaska Army National Guard another great opportunity to serve the communities of western Alaska, above the arctic circle, while simultaneously improving our skills as a globally deployable aviation unit,” Rivas said. “We are Alaskans who love to serve Alaska.”
Train to Maintain
In addition to transporting medical care teams to the villages, the aircrews accomplished a number of training requirements in between transports.
This allowed the aircrews to maintain flight operations currencies while gaining real-world experience in the varying support missions they could face in future contingency and humanitarian operations.
Ladd said that the without the Black Hawks, reaching the outlying villages would have been a big challenge, but that their presence in the Northwest Arctic Borough has been an important addition to performing the mission.
“I want to thank the 207th Aviation Regiment for partnering with us,” Ladd said. “This is a joint multiservice exercise and the aviation support they’ve provided has been spot on. We’re excited to have them help us reach the Northwest Arctic Borough residents in need.”