Latham Army National Guard Unit prepares for wild fires

Residents in living in towns from Latham all the way up to Schuylerville may have noticed a Blackhawk helicopter flying overhead, but there is no need to worry; it was all just a test.

The New York Army National Guard's Latham Unit Company A, 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation conducted water bucket training on Wednesday at the Garnsey Airport, a public airport just south of the village of Schuylerville and on the west side of the Hudson River located on private property, preparing to fight possible wild fires in New York or other states if their services are needed.

A UH-60 Lima Blackhawk helicopter carrying what was referred to as a Bambi Bucket to pick up water from the Hudson River and carry it to an island, just south of the pick-up point, where it would dump the water back into the river. The bucket can carry up to 660 gallons, or 5,405 pounds, of water according to Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, the National Guard's public affairs officer.

They can carry troops and they can carry lots of supplies. We call them sling load operations whenever the aircraft is going to be used to carry heavy objects, he said. "In a combat zone, it can be used to carry an artillery piece, a humvee and it could be used to evacuate casualties."

With all that weight, the pilot of the helicopter and Chief Warrant Officer Jim McCauley said there are certain precautions the crew has to take when carrying such heavy cargo. The most the aircraft can carry, as labeled on the hook, is 9,000 pounds.

"It does get a little sluggish, you just have to be careful and think about everything you're doing," he said. "To [carry 9,000 pounds], we'd have to be stripped out and light on gas, that would be the maximum."

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