US Army, April 22, 2014 - PHOENIX, AZ by Sgt Adrian Borunda - The Arizona National Guard prepared for this year’s fire season by training UH-60 Black Hawk crews to douse wildfires with helicopter buckets April 16.
Soldiers of 2nd Attack Helicopter Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment practiced and re-certified to fight wildfires with large water containers, or Bambi Buckets, that can carry up to 600 pounds of water to remote wildfires.
Arizona’s fire season, which starts in early spring and last until late July, is known for large fires in remote parts of the state as well as populated areas. It’s during these fires that the Guard can be called upon to provide assistance to civilian authorities.
“We had our annual training for Bambi Buckets and that ensures our crews are ready for the state to call National Guard assets to a fire,” said Chief Warrant Officer William Carlberg, a UH-60 instructor pilot with 2nd-285th.
Crews have to work together to successfully plan a drop over a fire or offload fire crews in valleys or hilltops.
“Pilots have to coordinate with the non-rated crew members in the back because most of the time they are guiding the pilots as to where the bucket is under the aircraft,” Carlberg said.
Communication is the key to success when handling equipment under the Black Hawk especially when filling a bucket or clearing a landing site for firefighters.
“For the pilots upfront and the chiefs in the back, crew coordination is very important, they have a limited view of objects below the aircraft, that’s where we play our role to coordinate drops and landings,” said Staff Sgt. Marco Lechuga, a UH-60 crew chief.
For new crew chiefs, this was their first time certifying after completing in-class training and online training.
“It was a great experience because I got hands-on training and they explained why we do what we do. When you explain to a Soldier why he or she has to do it a certain way, it makes more sense and its easier to learn,” said Sgt. Daniel Carnahan, a first time Bambi-Bucket-trained crew chief.
All three Soldiers describe the unit as “trained and ready,” and view the National Guard as a state asset that should be used more.
“Number one, we love doing this stuff. As an entire crew, we love it. Number two, we are a state asset. We train like we do so that when we get the call we are ready,” Lechuga said.
It's a sentiment shared by all the crews.
“They know if they need us they can call, seven days a week we can supply crews and aircraft,” Carlberg said.
The Soldiers of 2nd- 285th Attack Helicopter Battalion are ready to support the state during this year’s fire season and look forward to increasingly assist in state missions as conflicts overseas come to a close.
“I enjoyed it. It was pretty fast training. I wish we could do it more often, with deployments ramping down I think our training should start to focus on preparing for state missions so we can be utilized more often here in the state,” Carnahan said.