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Maryland HART’s Quarterly Training

Article by Spc. Shadrach Hicks & Video by Staff Sgt. Chazz Kibler, both member of the 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Photos By Spc. Tyrell Boyd, Maryland National Guard State Public Affairs Office

BALTIMORE, Md.  — The Maryland National Guard’s 29th Combat Aviation Brigade conducted quarterly training with the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (MD-HART) at the Edgewood Arsenal of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, on June 25, 2021. The exercise simulated a disaster situation where rescue technicians are lowered in a hoist from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, secure the simulated victim, and extract them to safety.

The MD-HART usually trains quarterly but has been unable to this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team specializes in helicopter rescue and responds to natural disasters and other emergencies that require an aerial extraction when different modes of transportation are incapable of reaching a victim(s).

“This exercise helps bring everybody up to speed on the training techniques,” said Brandon Watkins, a leader of one of four squadrons in the MD-HART and a Baltimore County firefighter. “Get everybody established because they haven’t done a live drill for the past year and to review all the rescue techniques with some of the newer pilots.” 

The MD-HART is made up of 23 personnel that operate out of different fire departments in Baltimore County, Harford County, Howard County, and Montgomery County, Maryland.

“I couldn’t hope for a better group of guys to work with,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Teri Thomas, a UH-60 pilot for C Co., 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, 29th Combat Aviation Brigade. “I get a lot of support from their end [MD-HART] and our end [MDNG] to make this [partnership] happen.”

The MD-HART was formed in 2008 in response to multiple tropical storms and hurricanes that had hit the East Coast.

Since 2008, the team has assisted in emergency relief efforts nationally, such as Hurricane Florence in 2018 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“The National Guard is here for the community, and our local fire departments are a part of the community,” said Thomas. “This training is important because we never know when we’re going to be called upon or when the next hurricane is going to strike, and we want to make sure we are ready when needed.”

The MD-HART collaborates with other State teams and agencies, including Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  

“The future of HART is expansion. The biggest advantage is that we’re bringing in different people from different backgrounds, and we’re all coming together for a common goal,” said Watkins.