DEER PARK, LONG ISLAND - Aircrews from the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade located near Ronkonkoma, Long Island, partnered with the local New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Park Rangers to perform an innovative training mission clean-up project in a New York State Park located between Deer Park and Baywood.

The New York National Guard's innovative readiness training program is known as GuardHELP.

Launched in June of 1998, GuardHELP is New York State's innovative non-emergency support program linking the capabilities of the New York National Guard with the needs of New York's communities.

GuardHELP stands for HEAR what communities need, EDUCATE them on Guard capabilities, LINK the appropriate capabilities to those needs and PARTNER with New York's communities for the mutual benefit of both the people of New York and their Guard force.

The Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve is a small community nature preserve and walking trail that the surrounding towns and citizens want to improve.

The DEC's goal for the project was to improve and maintain the existing preserve, prevent dumping, prevent unauthorized motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle access and preserve the maximum amount of open space connecting infrastructures around the area.

The 142nd Avn. Regt.'s assistance brought a two-fold solution to the DEC's initiative of park preservation and aided future budget planning.

First, the 142nd used their UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to airlift two abandoned vehicles and the remains of a flatbed truck from the underbrush by use of a sling-load and drop them off near the parking area of the preserve for the DEC to dispose of.

"The DEC benefited by saving a lot of money having us remove these derelict vehicles." Said Warrant Officer 3 Richard Siracusano, Jr., safety officer, 142nd Avn. Regt. "Now, money in their budget can go toward making this park preserve a cleaner, safer and more attractive place for the community."

Second, using the sling load method, the 142nd airlifted and strategically positioned more than nine 3500-pound Jersey barriers along trails and access points in order to prevent unauthorized motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle access.

"The completion of this GuardHELP project helps us manage the entry of illegal access vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles and dirt-bikes." Said DEC Forest Ranger, Capt. Tim Burns, public information officer. "This is in keeping with the agencies (DEC's) plan to reclaim the preserve and return it to its natural habitat."

This is not the first time that the Ronkonkoma-based aviation unit has partnered with the DEC in a GuardHELP project. In 2003, the aviation unit helped to construct fish habitats in Lake Ronkonkoma by airlifting and dropping massive tree stumps unearthed by the New York Department of Transportation along Interstate 87.