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News from the Oklahoma National Guard

NEWS | Oct. 7, 2020

Oklahoma Army National Guard Aviators elevate their skills

Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers with the 244th Aviation Regiment filled mountainous skies over Colorado during a five-day training exercise.

The exercise, known as Operation Lead Bucket, took place near the Leadville-Lake County Airport, Leadville, Colorado, September 14-18.

Operation Lead Bucket is a training exercise which is intended to provide unique and challenging hands-on opportunities in preparation for future domestic operations in Oklahoma and neighboring states. The exercise focused on aircraft power maintenance at higher altitudes and flight operations across Colorado.

“The intent of this training is to get our aircrews the opportunity to land in high altitudes and high elevations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4, Tyson Phillips, UH-60 “Black hawk” helicopter pilot with Headquarters Company, 244th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Training in Colorado’s mountainous terrain provided unique challenges for the aviators.

“Typically when flying around Oklahoma, [we] are about 600 feet in the air, which is very low compared to where we are training in Colorado, which ranges from 6,000 feet to 13,000 feet,” said 1st Lt. Jimmy Norvell, a pilot with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

As practice for future missions involving wildfires, the Oklahoma aviators spent two days working with a Bambi bucket, which is a lightweight and tough orange bucket capable of carrying more than 18,000 pounds of water. The Bambi buckets were repeatedly filled from small reservoirs and the water dropped water in surrounding mountains.

“We do water bucket training to prepare us for domestic support in the case of [wild] fires,” Norvell said. “Oklahoma, especially Northern Oklahoma, has been known to have issues with wildfires and it also helps us on a national level being able to support other states with the same problems.”

In conjunction with Bambi bucket training the crews focused on aircraft power management even traveling to North America’s highest airport.

“In Oklahoma, when we [prepare] to land, very seldom does the wind shift 180 degrees,” Norvell said. “In Colorado, wind comes from multiple directions so it's a great opportunity to practice with high altitude, power management and hypoxia or high elevation sickness.”

Training opportunities like Operation Lead Bucket, provide aircrews with an opportunity to practice the fire suppression skills they will need back in Oklahoma.
Video by Airman 1st Class Erika Chapa
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