What others say: Military Black Hawks will provide much-needed emergency support

  • Wednesday, April 1, 2015 4:51pm
  • Opinion

It’s a service Interior residents hope never to need, but it’s good to have on hand.

The return of 16 Black Hawk helicopters to the Interior that can help with medevac situations is an important potential asset for emergency situations in remote locations. The choppers have been gone since early 2014, diminishing the capacity for timely aid in parts of the Interior. Even in a more limited role, their presence is welcome.

The helicopters are part of Fort Wainwright’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment. They deployed to Iraq in 2008 and most recently to Afghanistan in February 2014. Medical aid is just part of their military mission, but it’s the role in which civilians are most likely to encounter them on the home front.

The Black Hawks were formerly part of a program called Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic, or MAST. They provided aid in many emergency situations, like vehicle accidents or small plane crashes. That program ended in Alaska when the battalion deployed overseas in 2008.

Since then, the Interior has been without a nearby option for helicopter medevac service — while the Alaska State Troopers have helicopters of their own and Air National Guard units at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage were also able to provide service, those options were either less full-featured or considerably more distant — both liabilities in the event of a medical emergency.

With the Black Hawks back in the Interior, the potential for aid is robust and close at hand, vital in situations where time can mean the difference between life and death.

It’s important to mention the return of the 1-52nd does not denote the return of the MAST program — crews will not be standing by at all times to help with civilian aid. But when crews are able and receive a request from Anchorage’s Rescue Coordination Center, they will respond.

Even in a more limited form than its prior incarnation, the Black Hawks’ emergency response capability is welcome in the Interior, especially with icy roads and treacherous surface conditions on Interior lakes and rivers in springtime.

The service’s return is a strong reminder of the value of our military to the Interior community — while many think of service members in their role as a war fighting force, they also provide valuable functions on the home front in peacetime.

Thanks to the helicopter crews for their service, and to the military for making them available.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 28

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