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West Virginia Airmen practice lifesaving skills

Two Airmen from the 130th Airlift Wing, McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, W.Va., look on as a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to Company C., 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC), Williamstown, W.Va., prepares to extract aircrew members from the field during combat survival training for Sentry Storm 19 held July 29, 2019, at the Hobet Mine site in Boone County, W.Va.

Two Airmen from the 130th Airlift Wing, McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, W.Va., look on as a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to Company C., 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC), Williamstown, W.Va., prepares to extract aircrew members from the field during combat survival training for Sentry Storm 19 held July 29, 2019, at the Hobet Mine site in Boone County, W.Va.

BOONE COUNTY, W. Va. --

When an aircraft goes down in enemy territory, it requires a clear head and the belief that one will make it out alive.

With this mindset, aircrew members of the 130th Operations Group participated in a combat survival skills refresher training July 29 at Hobet Mine, which straddles the Boone and Lincoln county line in West Virginia. The Airmen covered training techniques such as evasion tactics, procurement of necessities, signaling and recovery.

Master Sgt. Robert Miner, SERE Specialist assigned to the 130th Operations Support Squadron, led the training. SERE stands for survival, evasion, resistance and escape.

After the training was completed, the lessons learned were put into action. The members broke up into teams and navigated a wooded area of approximately one kilometer to an extraction point where they were evacuated by the West Virginia Army National Guard’s Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC), located in Williamstown.

From there, the medical skills of both the WVARNG’s combat medics and the 130th Airlift Wing’s 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron were put to the test. Crews from the 2-104th GASB transported simulated patients to Camp Branch landing zone in Logan County, West Virginia, where they were met by a 130th Airlift Wing C-130H and team of aeromedical personnel. The goal of this section of training was to assess and triage patients and provide immediate care to life-threatening injuries between a joint team of Army and Air National Guard personnel.

As the only state to sit fully within the Appalachian Mountain range, West Virginia offers a unique training ground for situations such as these.

“The benefits of West Virginia are its challenging terrain,” Miner said.
“There is almost no flat ground, which makes land navigation more difficult because its more physically demanding, but in another sense, it makes land navigation great to do because there is a lot of terrain features so there is a lot of landmarks that you can identify.”

Another feature that makes the state prime training ground for evasion and extraction is its foliage, which allows for better cover.

Senior Master Sgt. Deborah Turrill, a 130th Airlift Wing loadmaster, has completed this refresher six times agrees.

“It helps us because this is the kind of terrain that we deal with in the theater.” Said Turrill.

Training events such as this benefit both the Air and Army Guard, while continuing to strengthen the already strong relationship that the services have within the state.

“We have a great working relationship,” said Miner. “They have always been down for supporting us. Anytime that the Army is available, they will come out and fly, do hoist, vectors and personnel recovery for us."

Senior Airman Haley Ryan, 167th AES aeromedical evacuation technician, also appreciated the great benefit of training in a joint environment.

“It’s always beneficial training when we get to work with the Army,” Ryan said. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to work with other services that mimics a deployed environment; therefore it increases our overall readiness and skills as aeromedical technicians.”

The training was completed as part of Sentry Storm 19. Sentry Storm brings military assets from around the country to train in West Virginia in areas such as conducting joint aircrew and mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, personnel recovery, and support services readiness training for domestic operations. Additionally, Sentry Storm overlaps with the World Scout Jamboree, held July 22 through Aug. 2, to offer airlift and medical support, should a real-world emergency arise.