GEORGIA GARRISON TRAINING CENTER, Hinesville, Ga., Nov. 4, 2012 – More than 400 Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) volunteers travelled from their homes across Georgia to meet at Fort Stewart in order to participate in the GSDF’s Annual Training (AT). The event created a realistic exercise putting the totality of each unit’s training into action.
“AT 2012 was designed as a force-wide search and rescue (SAR) mission run as an Army Readiness Training Evaluation Program (ARTEP),” said Lt. Col. Lan Skalla, the GSDF’s Chief Operations Division G3. “The concept was to create as realistic an exercise as possible to be run in real-time.”
The exercise began with the issuance of a SITREP on Oct. 28, 2012, mobilizing units to travel to the Georgia Garrison Training Center with mission orders published at Friday evening on Nov. 2. The scenario primarily consisted of a confirmed plane crash. There were four known passengers aboard. “Witnesses” claimed to have seen two deployed parachutes, so there was the possibility of survivors. Manifest details were not available, so searchers were looking for items of a sensitive nature and treating the area as a crime scene.
Elements of the GSDF’s 1st, 4th, and 5th Brigades were each assigned an insertion point and the four-digit grid corner of their respective SAR area. The training areas were “salted” with aircraft parts, simulated narcotics, clothing, personal items, training weapons, suitcases, mannequins with flight suits and parachutes, and simulated IEDs. Approximately 320 SDF members moved into the field to conduct the search with another 92 performing service and support functions.
As search operations were initiated, elements of the 4th Brigade deployed to set up and operate two landing zones (LZs), one at the forward operating base (FOB) and a second at Donovan Field. A HH-60M MEDEVAC from the Georgia Army National Guard’s Company C, 1-111th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), headquartered at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga., arrived at the field LZ.
Army flight medic Sgt 1st Class Vince Battaglia conducted training of the GSDF personnel and responded to their questions involving MEDEVAC operations and operating with H-60 aircraft in general. Teams of GSDF stretcher-bearers were then instructed and received hands-on training on how to load casualties onto the HH-60M under the watchful eye of Battaglia and assisted by Army crew chief Sgt. Billy Ashley.
After multiple successful rounds of training to load patients onto the helicopter, it was time to perform live. The SAR teams in the field had located the “victims” from the plane crash by that time, and had called in multiple nine-line MEDEVAC reports. The Army pilot-in-command, Chief Warrant Officer Lance Wasdin, and co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Greg Delgado had rotors engaged and the aircraft off the deck within 11 minutes.
“Victims” were then transported from the field LZ to Donovan Field at the Georgia Garrison Training Center where they were received and treated by the GSDF medical battalion. Each team was afforded the opportunity to load and unload casualties from the HH-60 with rotors turning.
The LZ operations were a complete success and the training received was as real as it gets.
The GSDF’s vigilance and situational awareness were put on display when a report was received that a 3.5” rocket had been discovered by SDF members in the field and then “killed off” by Fort Stewart Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel. As that report was being forwarded to the Fort Stewart Military Police, another report came in about six rounds of what was described as 20mm ammo. As that report was being processed, another report came in of an additional 3.5” rocket round. At that time, the decision was made to cancel further training in the field and all SDF members were withdrawn.
In all, the GSDF identified:
- Two 3.5” rocket rounds, circa 1950-1960’s
- A rifle grenade circa 1960’s
- And 21 rounds – 25mm Bradley practice tracer ammo
All were detonated safely due to proper actions by GSDF field leaders and troops, and there were no injuries.
AT 2012 was a complete success. Readiness was evaluated both in training and logistics for a full-force deployment to meet assigned Force Support Packages (FSP) as well as actions as part of the Disaster Rapid Response Force (DRRF). Discovery of live unexploded ordnance in the SDF training areas highlighted the ability to adjust and respond to events as they occur. Even in an exercise scenario, troops must maintain situational awareness at all times to perform at their best and keep everyone safe.
By Capt. Andy Creed
Public Affairs Officer
Georgia State Defense Force
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