Army Guard helicopters and Air Force parachutists take jamboree to the skies
July 29, 2010
FORT A.P. Hill, Va. - The vast, wooded forests and rolling, green hills of Fort A.P. Hill, Va., have provided a rich, natural environment for each Boy Scouts of America's National Jamboree since 1981. Thousands of scouts from across the country partake in the opportunity to hike the scenic trails, spot the varieties of wildlife and appreciate the ecological wonders of the area.
But as the scouts enjoyed the events on the campgrounds, there were plenty of activities taking place in the skies above them. Between lessons to earn merit badges and trade patches with new friends, scouts often looked up to see U.S. Army National Guard Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters careen through the air. And behind the aircraft, a trail of two or three parachutists floated downward almost right near where the scouts were standing, something to make their time there even more special.
The West Virginia West Army National Guard helicopters from West Virginia partnered with other military service branches and civilian organizations throughout the 2010 National Scout Jamboree here at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., July 26-August 4. The units' performances are scheduled and coordinated by the Joint Task Force-Aviation Task Force in support of the Jamboree and the 100th Anniversary of scouting.
The guard helicopters are not only utilized for air shows and parachute jumps, but for emergency contingencies like using "Bambi buckets" to collect water to extinguish potential forest fires. The Guard conducted a simulated exercise by collecting and dumping water at Thunder Lake on Fort A.P. Hill July 23.
"All the aviation assets you'll see for this operation are Army National Guard helicopters," said U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. John Till, Aviation Task Force commander. "It's definitely a joint exercise with civilian emergency services, the fire department, Air Force air traffic controllers on the ground, and the Army in the air."
For the Jamboree itself, Guard helicopters took members of the "Wings of Blue" parachute team from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., through several high- and low-altitude jumps over the Jamboree campgrounds.
"We're glad the military could help out with the Joint Task Force help out on the Jamboree," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Drinkard, U.S. Air Force Academy "Wings of Blue" parachute team.
Colonel Drinkard and fellow parachutists participated in dozens of jumps throughout the week, some at heights between 4,500 and 9,000 feet. Some jumpers even utilized elaborate smoke streamers or carried military service and prisoner-of-war flags as they descended closer to the campgrounds, especially during one of the Jamboree's arena shows.
While the appearance of the aircraft and jumpers may add extra flair for Jamboree spectators, West Virginia U.S. Army Guard Chief Warrant Officer James Wildman, Black Hawk pilot, said working with other service branches made the trip more unique for him and his team.
And according to U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Jesse Galt, a parachutist with "Wings of Blue" and former Eagle Scout, the chance to jump from a helicopter to the Jamboree fairgrounds also had special significance.
"Three years ago, I was a boy scout and now I'm jumping into air shows all over the country and the world," Cadet Galt said.
"This joint task force has been a very professional organization that's run very well," Mr. Wildman said. "And it's a pleasure to be here and support the jamboree, too."
Joint Task Force-National Scout Jamboree plans and executes all Department of Defense operations and activities in support of the Boy Scouts of America at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A. P. Hill.
The JTF's goal is to provide professional military support and a safe and secure environment for Scouts and visitors during the event.
The Department of Defense's presence and effort at the NSJ emphasizes the commitment to the nation's youth.