Crews manning UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters filled their water buckets at Memorial Lake State Park and dumped them in Fort Indiantown Gap’s training corridor between Blue and Second mountains. The Black Hawks were from the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, and the Chinook was from the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, both based at Fort Indiantown Gap’s Muir Army Airfield.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alan E. Steinman, one of the Pilots who took part in the exercise, said the training was very beneficial. “The benefit of having current and qualified water buckets crews is to support the Fort Indiantown Gap Fire Department and the Forestry office in the event of a fire that requires aviation support on property under the jurisdiction of local agencies,” said Steinman, who is a UH60 Flight Instructor at EAATS. “Although it is rare, aviation assets have participated in water bucket operations for fires in the restricted area.”
Water bucket operations are not difficult to become qualified in, Steinman said, but a high level proficiency would happen with experience. “We are not very experienced at the EAATS in fighting actual fires but conduct training regularly in the event we are needed,” he said.
Water bucket training traditionally takes place twice a year
In addition to the air crews, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ Forest Management Section, the Fort Indiantown Gap fire and police departments, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks took part in the training.
Water bucket training traditionally has taken place a minimum of twice a year, Steinman said. “This most recent training involving the fire department and air to ground communications at the drop site was the most involved training we have conducted up to this point and was very beneficial,” he said. “Realistic scenario-based training is the best type to prepare for the real thing.”
JD Lambrinos, Forest Program Manager for the DMVA’s Forest Management Section, said water bucket training is valuable for prescribed fire implementation and wildfire response. “They can be used to strengthen control lines, put out hot spots or be used in areas inaccessible to ground resources such as unexploded ordnance areas,” he said. “Biannual training is critical to being able to use these resources efficiently and effectively should the need arise.”