From responding to wildfires and floods in the western United States to an earthquake on the other side of the globe, Army aviation has been an important part of response missions to save lives and help those in affected communities, said a National Guard official.
Army aviation has “unique capabilities” that allow it to provide critical assistance in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, said Brig. Gen. Michael E. Bobeck, special assistant to the director, Army National Guard.
With helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial systems, Army aviation in active, Guard and Reserve components can take on a range of missions to safeguard the health and well-being of affected populations, he said.
“We have a force of choice that can be utilized not only here at home, but around the world,” he said.
Bobeck was part of a panel discussion on “Army Aviation in Civil Support and Consequence Management,” at the Association of the United States Army Aviation Symposium, Jan. 14, in Arlington, Va.
During wildfires last year in California, he said, the California National Guard deployed remotely piloted unmanned aircraft, known as UASs, or unmanned aircraft systems, that provided critical situation awareness and aided firefighters in finding hot spots on the ground.
“This is probably the first time we’ve used a UAS in support of a wildfire,” he said.
“The proliferation of UAS affords what I think is just the beginning of providing capability for both active and guard to use their UAS in a civil support and consequence management role,” he said.
Other domestic missions of Army aviation include working with federal agents to secure the U.S. border, as well as responding to the floods in Colorado last year and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he said.
Army aviation provided an “incredible response,” he said, to Hurricane Sandy in helping the citizens of New York and New Jersey.
In addition, the Army National Guard also takes part in major national security events such as inaugurations, including the Jan. 11 installation of a new governor in Virginia.
“They do it quietly, professionally and they are on time and on target and they do it very well,” said Col. Mark W. Weiss, the chief of the Army National Guard’s aviation division.
The Army National Guard has aviation capacity and capability in each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia, Weiss told the forum.
“We are geographically dispersed. We are readily available and always accessible,” he said.
In addition, Weiss noted that the Army National Guard has been involved in medical evacuations, tornado response, and counter-drug operations in the United States.
Army aviation regularly conducts search and rescue missions, he said. More than 1,600 people were saved or assisted domestically in fiscal year 2013 by Army aviation. He said most of the people helped were in the floods in Colorado.
More than $5 billion in drugs have been kept off the streets in fiscal year 2013, said Weiss, with Army aviation supporting and adding value to the counter-drug efforts by law enforcement agents.
Global examples of Army aviation providing support in times of crises include responding to earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, and in Haiti in 2010, and for humanitarian assistance in Nicaragua in 2009, said Bobeck.
The general noted that after the earthquake struck Pakistan in 2005, that active-duty guard forces were deployed from Afghanistan to Pakistan to provide assistance.