National Guard members train in Black Hawk rescues

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SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah National Guard now has another option when it comes to responding to emergencies. Guard members were trained earlier this week in operating Black Hawk helicopters outfitted with hoists to help in search and rescue missions.

A simulation helped the 171st Aviation Unit learn how to drop from the Black Hawk helicopter, pick up a mock patient and use a cable to take the patient and himself back up to safety.

Crews practice in different locations and at different times of day and night. They also work at different heights; the hoist is capable of reaching the ground with the aircraft more than 200 feet above the ground.

With this training, the Utah National Guard has the unique capability in rescue situations for the first time in 20 years.

"We're excited to use this training and this program that we have to help civilian search and rescue agencies," said Chief Warrant Officer Randy Lovejoy, 171st Aviation Medevac. "That's one of our missions in Utah."

Right now, crews are only in the training stage. They hope to finish and be able to fully utilize the system within the next six months, once they get approval from state and local agencies.