NORTH VERNON, Ind. -- The Indiana Army National Guard Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team and the South Bend Swift Water Rescue Team joined forces at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center to increase the number of trained IN-HART members in the state.

IN-HART is a multi-agency partnership that includes credentialed civilian rescue technicians and members of the Indiana National Guard. The team meets monthly to train to ensure maximum readiness for disasters.

The training at MUTC Oct. 23-24 focused on joint search and rescue air-ground missions.

"Today went great, and the facility offers an opportunity to get real hands-on training and experience from different perspectives both on the hoist and in water," said South Bend firefighter and new IN-HART recruit Brian Piper. "There is a lot more to hoist operations besides just hanging onto a cable and going down to your target to complete your mission."

WO1 Benjamin Geyer, a UH-60 pilot and new IN-HART recruit, said the opportunity to train with this premier group as a newer pilot was challenging and surreal, but also a successful mission and important teaching tool.

"When I'm in the cockpit listening to the communications over the radio with the wind blowing, I think about the person on the hoist getting blown around," said Geyer. "Without much of a visual, I'm just trying to ensure I don't overcorrect. It's important to remain steady without making a twist or turn worse."

South Bend firefighter Capt. Dave Pritz said the simulated missions tested the Swift Water Rescue Team members and Hoosier Guard Soldiers beyond hoist operations.

"We did more than just basic hoist operations. Over the two days, we worked within confined spaces, used a rescue basket and litter," said Pritz, also a new IN-HART recruit. "Having the opportunity to be here and perform these operations before the real deal is a great advantage."