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Latham Army National Guard Unit prepares for wild fires

Fanning described a situation where their unit assisted the town of Delmar during a mudslide in 2000. The aircraft was used to airlift a drill rig into position to drill deep into the ground to collect soil samples help in planning in rebuilding the area washed out by the mudslide.

"They had to do the lift in two pieces because the drill was so heavy and so complex," he explained, "The next piece was flown over and the literally hovered so the second component could be carefully placed where it needed to be placed; right on top of the base of the drill rig. Only the guard could do that because we're the only ones with that aircraft, and the crews trained to do that kind of stuff."

Not only does the Latham unit assist locally, Fanning said they helped in the Hurricane Katrina and Rita effort where they would transport people who needed to be medically evacuated as well as bringing relief supplies such as water and food to areas that were not receiving it quickly enough.

For Wednesday's training, McCauley said they were briefed on how to release the water in the bucket, how to drop the bucket in case of an emergency, test whether the helicopter has enough power to do the heavy lifting required of it and what the power limitations were.

"You get on the computer and you figure out the power margins with the load and without the load," he said, adding they also test how much wind will be a problem. "It's kind of like an airplane, in a sense, if you think of the rotary blade that's just a big wing swinging around."

The training attracted some attention from local residents who came out to watch. One woman drove 15 minutes from Mechanicville after hearing about the event on the 12 p.m. news.

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