NEW JOHNSONVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team and state and local first responders conducted a joint search and rescue exercise on Kentucky Lake Oct. 19.
The exercise integrated land, water and air assets from participating departments.
The Tennessee National Guard provided a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, crewmembers and hoist operators. The Nashville Fire Department provided specialized aerial water rescue divers, Tennessee Wildlife and Resources Agency provided water security, and the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency provided command and control for the exercise.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not been able to all get together like this and practice emergency operations on a larger scale,” said Amanda Hite, Humphreys County deputy emergency manager. “I am so glad we were able to train today because it helps us not only integrate with one another, but it helps us identify our strengths and where we can improve.”
The scenario in Kentucky Lake, next to Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, involved a simulated civilian boat crash that required immediate, multiagency search and rescue operations.
The TN-HART team practiced rescuing two simulated drowning victims by lowering specialized Nashville water-rescue firefighters from 70 feet into the near-freezing water. The firefighters secured the victims and Tennessee National Guard crewmembers hoisted them to safety.
“Hoisting over moving water adds additional complexity to an already dangerous maneuver,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.J. Spradling, who piloted the aircraft. “It requires us to operate at a lower, more dangerous altitude, which leaves little room for error. It is critical we practice these maneuvers as often as we can with our partner agencies to maintain our proficiency.”
The Tennessee Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team is a multiagency partnership between the Tennessee Army National Guard and the Nashville Fire Department. Every team member underwent special training to qualify for these types of rescues.