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Maryland National Guard provides aviation and medical support during Exercise Maple Resolve 17

By Spc. Elizabeth ScottJune 2, 2017

WAINWRIGHT, Canada -- As the sunset at Camp Wainwright in Alberta, Canada, the sky turned a bright golden color. A Maryland National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk was silhouetted against the skyline as a crew performed a hoist mission with a simulated downed pilot.

While many soldiers watched and took snapshots of the hoist exercise, two Maryland National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk crews and their Canadian counterparts prepped for their own mission nearby.

The crew finished its pre-flight briefing and found discrepancies in one of the UH-60 Black Hawk's logbook, which grounded that particular helicopter. Without missing a beat, the Soldiers moved on to get another helicopter ready for the mission.

The Maryland National Guard Soldiers, alongside the Royal Canadian Air Force's 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, picked up and moved the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division Soldiers to a designated location during Exercise Maple Resolve 17 at Camp Wainwright on May 25.

"Having to train like this is so important to us [when] we run into these issues," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. James Murphy, the 2nd Platoon leader of C Co., 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. "Having these problems, having to work on the fly just makes us stronger as a unit overall."

Exercise Maple Resolve, the Canadian Army's largest annual exercise, ran from May 14-29. Approximately 4,000 Canadian Armed Forces members and 1,000 service members from the U.S., Britain, Australia, and New Zealand participated in this year's exercise.

The Maryland National Guard provided aviation and medical support to the exercise, with 10 UH-60 Black Hawks and one LUH-72 Lakota helicopter.

During the night exercise on May 25 after one of the helicopters was grounded, Soldiers from the other crew, the mechanics, and others not scheduled to fly that night pitched in to get the pre-flight checks done in a timely manner. The Soldiers worked thoroughly and efficiently to meet the deadlines needed to complete the mission.

They don't get the opportunity to work in this type of real-world air assaults often, said Sgt. Wesley Richardson, a UH-60 crew chief with C Co., 2-224th. Many things they do in training are simulated. Here, they were able to move actual Soldiers, which gave the unit that type of experience.

The crew of the UH-60, prepared with their training and their planning, steady themselves for the Soldiers that would be coming aboard.

The UH-60 Black Hawks and the Canadian CH-147 Chinooks touched down. Groups of 10th Mountain Soldiers readied themselves, clutched their weapons, and shouldered their rucks to file inside and anticipate a similarly efficient helicopter dismount.

The helicopters took off, the sun almost gone, and the Soldiers sat shoulder-to-shoulder with little to no room in between them. The air was crisp and cold, the blades of the helicopter cutting the otherwise silent night.

"Ninety seconds," yelled one of the Soldiers.

"Ninety seconds," replied the soldiers in the back.

Muscles started to tense, gear slightly shifting around, as Soldiers got ready to move out. At 60 seconds and again at 30 seconds, the Soldier called out the time.

The helicopter touched down at the landing zone. Soldiers disembarked from both sides of the helicopter in the dark. They formed a 360-degree defensive perimeter around the helicopter. The Soldiers laid in the prone, with their rucksacks provide any type of concealment in the open field. Their weapons pointed outwards, ready to engage the enemy if necessary.

Despite having to restart and prepare a new helicopter, the troop drop-off at the landing zone happened at the right time.

Done! The helicopters took off leaving the Soldiers to complete their mission.

"Everyone had their own way of doing things," said Richardson. "To be a combined force and to basically share experiences - what works, doesn't work - it's very beneficial for all sides."

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