FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) conducted a joint complex search and rescue land-based exercise March 23 at Gilbert Airfield in York, Pa.

The team consisted of more than 50 civilian and military personnel. The exercise integrated PA HART rescue technicians, 1 CH-47F Chinook, 3 UH-60 A/L Black Hawk, and 1 LUH-72 Lakota helicopters to simulate search and rescue operations to hoist (simulated) patients and rescue divers/technicians.

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) is a joint multi-agency partnership between the Pennsylvania Army National Guard (PAARNG), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and credentialed civilian expert rescue specialists. PA-HART provides a unique joint search and rescue air-ground team that deployable to respond to natural and man-made disasters incidents throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and United States.

This initiative mirrors the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and provides team members with technical training that prepares them to engage in dangerous environmental conditions in urban and wilderness settings. The PFBC is the state agency responsible for swift water rescue training in the Commonwealth and coordinates this rescue training for the PA-HART program.

The combined civilian and military partnership provides an extraordinary domestic operational response capability for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"The joint planning makes such training appear seamless and simple, but it is the unique team we have that allows us execute training safely that will save time, money and most importantly lives when we get the actual call to go," said Lt. Col. Michael Girvin, Commander of the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB).

The 23 MAR 2018 training exercise deployed rescue technicians from Johnstown (AASF#2) and Muir Army Airfield (AASF#1) at Fort Indiantown Gap to Gilbert Airfield for a complex land based search and rescue training scenario.

"The primary goal is to conduct realistic search and rescue operations training safely," said Ryan Walt, program manager for PA-HART and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Swift water Rescue Program. "Our main focus is to conduct training iterations proficiently and mitigate risk to participants."

PA HART members complete vigorous training to prepare them to deploy and operate in harsh urban, water and mountainous terrain environments.

"It's not just water rescue missions, our qualifications and training qualify member to perform any all-hazards search and rescue missions," said Scott Grahn, PA-HART, strike team leader.

The PA HART safely achieved the goals identified and developed within the complex training exercise.

"The joint interagency training scenario provided remarkable results enhancing PA HART organizational and operational readiness in preparation for future training exercises and assigned domestic operations," said Lt. Col. Randy Lutz, Eastern ARNG Aviation Training Site, ATB-Cargo Commander.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Lt. Col. Angela King-Sweigart (717)861-8829, or e-mail ng.pa.paarng.list.ftig-pao@mail.mil