US Air Force, March 02, 2016 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan by A1C Delano Scott - The 459th Airlift Squadron recently outfitted two of their UH-1N Hueys with new rescue hoists, improving their search and rescue capabilities that support airlift operations across the Kanto Plains region.
"It allows us to now go to places where we can't land," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Poe, 459 AS special missions aviator. "From lifting people off the side of a mountain to carefully placing cargo onto buildings, the hoist gives the aircraft a wider range of capabilities that weren't possible before."
Although all SMAs receive initial hoist certification during technical training, they must conduct retraining to maintain their certification. Without the hoist capability at Yokota, most SMAs with the 459 AS hadn't kept up hoist currency and training, so they required recertification.
To conduct the requalification, SMA instructors from the 512th Rescue Squadron, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and the 36th RQS, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., arrived at Yokota to train the 459 AS flight engineers. The requalification process included day and night hoist operations with the supervision of instructors.
"There's a crawl, walk and run phase for the hoist training," said Capt. Robert Konowicz, the 512th Rescue Squadron UH-1N pilot. "The crawl phase ensures Airmen understand the ins-and-outs of the equipment. The walking phase is using the hoist during day operations under the supervision of instructors. Lastly, the run phase is a live hoisting using night vision goggles."
Yokota's UH-1N flight engineers revealed that their past experiences with SAR training and scenarios made the recertification process a fluid one.
"Not only are the aircraft receiving this new capability, it's also fortunate that us flight engineers have all had previous experiences with the new equipment," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Wright, 374th Operations Group special missions aviator. "The recertification process has allowed us to utilize the skillsets we had honed during our initial training as well as our previous assignments."
Previously, without the hoist, conducting rescues in small, tight areas wasn't feasible. Now, 459 AS can conduct any type of search and rescue scenario throughout the Kanto Plains. And, the aircraft receiving a new capability allows for the flight engineers to continue their hoist training and experience here for the unforeseeable future.