WEST BEND, Wis. - Five Wisconsin National Guard units and one Louisiana Air National Guard unit helped build readiness for the National Guard's dual mission in a November training exercise.

Dubbed Operation Blue Moon, the exercise was designed to prepare Soldiers and Airmen for deployments through firsthand training, including nine-line medevac, response to a point-of-injury site, litter carries, medical care and equipment maintenance.

"This training gives Soldiers the knowledge to be more proficient at their [Military Occupational Specialty]," said Sgt. Adam Harris, with 2nd Battalion, 104th General Support Aviation Regiment, in West Bend.

All training was completed with the support of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Black Hawks flew teams of Soldiers to the point-of-injury site to pick up Soldiers with simulated injuries. Once receiving the information regarding the point-of-injury site, teams had up to 15 minutes to get off the ground. They then returned to medical aid stations where medics were waiting to provide treatment.

Helicopters flew from four sites for Operation Blue Moon; Fond Du Lac, New Holstein, West Bend and Watertown. Each site had flight operations, flight crews and two Black Hawks.

Staff Sgt. Micah Lillegare, a platoon sergeant and paramedic for the 168th General Support Aviation Battalion, believes training like this is valuable for Soldiers.

"It gets away from doing a lot of notional things or just talking through whatever it is you're training on," Lillegare said. "It gives you hands-on experience. It's good exposure for new Soldiers to see how things actually work versus just talking about it or looking at PowerPoints."

Pfc. Nicole Atkinson, a medic with the Waukesha-based 135th Area Support Medical Company, agreed.

"It's important because it's real-life scenarios," she said. "This isn't the training you get while you're in AIT (Advanced Individual Training); it's what you'll actually be doing."

Throughout the operation, Atkinson helped prepare equipment in advance, ran out to the Black Hawks with a litter team to receive simulated casualties and provided further medical care at the battalion aid station.

Capt. Patrick Peterson, the forward support medical platoon leader for the operation, as well as an officer with the 168th General Support Aviation Battalion, said hands-on training like Operation Blue Moon strengthens individual units. He said stronger units result in better support for Wisconsin National Guard's mission of always being ready for both its federal mission as the Army's primary combat reserve and its state mission as Wisconsin's first military responder in emergencies.

"It tests not only our ability to deploy to another environment but also prepares us to complete tasks we do in support of domestic operations," Peterson said.