FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Approximately 25 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen with the Pennsylvania National Guard worked together Oct. 13 to load a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter onto a C-17 cargo aircraft and transport it from Army Aviation Support Facility in Johnstown to Pittsburgh and back.
Several Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers worked to fold the helicopter and prepare it for transport over several days while Airmen with the 171st Air Refueling Wing inspected and measured the Black Hawk and helped load it onto the C-17, which they crewed.
“A few years ago, some of us were activated for Hurricane Maria, and they had to load it into a C-17 and fly it down to Puerto Rico,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven Zerbini, a maintenance test pilot who led the Army Guard part of the mission.
The operation in support of Hurricane Maria relief almost exactly six years ago, in 2017, was the last time the Pennsylvania National Guard performed this task. So, this was the first time for most of the personnel involved in the exercise.
“This is a training event, whether it’s for domestic operations or overseas, so that we can fold the aircraft, load it into a C-17, and be ready for anything,” said Zerbini.
The Pennsylvania National Guard is one of the nation’s largest and most deployed National Guards. In addition to its federal mission, the Pennsylvania National Guard responds to domestic emergencies, working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, U.S. Northern Command and dozens of federal, state and local agencies.
“Members of the Air Guard from the 171st came yesterday to inspect the aircraft and make sure it was portable, and it worked great; their crew was awesome,” said Zerbini. “There were a few things we had to tweak, but the crew here at this facility did a great job.”
Joint training boosts the effectiveness of the entire force and builds the kind of cooperation and flexibility necessary for interoperability with partners and allies everywhere.
The whole process of flying to Pittsburgh, unloading the helicopter, reloading it into the same plane, flying it back to Johnstown, unloading it, and getting it back to flying condition took the entire day and into the evening.