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106th Rescue Wing Hosts Inaugural JROTC Summer Training Program

  • Published
  • By Capt. Cheran Campbell
  • 106th Rescue Wing

For the first time, the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing hosted summer training for 14 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets from July 18 to July 21 at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.

“I had the opportunity to be a JROTC cadet in high school and it gave me the unique opportunity to learn about service and helped jumpstart my career as a military officer,” Col Shawn Fitzgerald, commander of the 106th Rescue Wing said.

The four-day camp offered an opportunity for 14 JROTC cadets to experience a close-up view of military operations, said Major Martin Viera, JROTC program coordinator and director of operations for the Operation Support Squadron.

The cadets came from various Long Island high schools, including Patchogue-Medford, Southold, and Mattituck, as well as Aviation High School in Queens.

The JROTC program’s agenda was comprehensive, covering mission development and planning, combat medicine, aircraft maintenance, weapons familiarization, survival and land navigation, and concluded with a challenging search and rescue mission, Viera added.

The JROTC cadets learned what it took to execute the 106th Rescue Wing full mission profile, Viera said.

A full mission profile for the 106th Rescue Wing includes problem solving using the HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopter, HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft and Pararescuemen, Viera explained.

The first day included classroom instruction time with a base capability brief, Tactical Combat Casualty Care training, firearms handling and safety classes.

“We knew that the students would need to know how to safely hold the weapon, which was a rubber nug, for the last day of class. So we gave them a four-hour block on weapons manipulation and how to break that weapon down,” Viera said.

“My favorite part of this entire mission was the security forces training, one of the best things I have ever done,” said Patchogue Medford High School cadet Justin Carrillo.

“In training, we learned how to dismantle the M4, we learned how to put it back together. Really fun and amazing opportunity,” Carrillo explained.

On the second day, the students took a mock Air Force physical training test then got the chance to explored various aircraft components and systems that ensured operational readiness. From engine diagnostics to navigational aids, the students got a glimpse of what it took to keep an aircraft in the sky.

That same day, the students also learned survival and land navigation, which pushed the students physically. They had to dig a ground to air signal (GTAS) from scratch.

According to Viera, the GTAS helps a search and rescue aircrew identify a downed aircraft and its personnel.

“Some of the students got their very first blister,” Technical Sgt. Kuhn, a survival and evasion instructor said.

Day three was mission planning day, where the JROTC students were briefed by intel in preparation for the day four mission that included a downed aircraft.

On the last day, according Major Viera, the JROTC students had to put their newly acquired knowledge and skills to the test to demonstrate their ability to respond effectively in a high-pressure scenario.

“The mission was to locate and recover members from an HH-60G that had a hard landing. The cadets boarded a HC-130, conducted search patterns taught during a lesson during the week… Upon locating a sea dye over the ocean, the Isolated personnel then radioed to the HC-130 updated coordinates, that the C-130 flew directly to,” Viera explained.

“The cadets were able to observe a wreckage/fuselage HH-60 and a ground to air signal. Updated medical conditions were passed to the air crew and cadets and they all decided to land immediately and as close as possible,” Viera said.

The cadets then had to locate and treat the patients after they were found.

“Using the patrolling techniques and following the direction of a pararescue team leader, the cadets cleared the incident site, located, treated, and triaged five patients, two live and three mannequins. Working as a team, the cadets utilized the tactical vehicle and two talon litters and transported the patients back to the landing zone, using the small team tactics techniques they learned during the week,” Viera said.

At the end of the mission all the cadets were hoisted into the helicopter and returned to base operations.

Brennan Sullivan, a JROTC cadet from Patchogue-Medford High School, said he enjoyed being on the HC-130J.

He has never been on a military aircraft Sullivan said, and he learned a lot, like how difficult it is to spot the dye on the ocean that indicates where a life raft could be.

“I really thought it gave us a good feel for what a rescue mission would be like,” Sullivan said.

Mattituck High School JROTC cadet Holly Reventlow was pleased with how all the Airmen at the 106th worked together to get missions accomplished.

“My favorite part was definitely interacting with everybody from here..and how interesting it is to see that every single person has a purpose here…it’s like one big family,” Reventlow said.

“You can’t go on a plane unless someone helps you fix it.” she explained “I love the vibe around here and everything about it.”

“The next JROTC Camp will take place during the school year. This will be a unique and exciting program to be involved in, we are looking to improve the curriculum and the number of cadets in the years to come,” Viera explained.

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.