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Alaska Army, Air National Guardsmen to the rescue

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Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters of 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, boarded an Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III operated by 144th Airlift Squadron Airmen Sept. 17, 2018, bound for the Hurricane Florence humanitarian relief effort.

The C-17 left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, for McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, to provide helicopter lift to the flooded region.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker talked to Guardsmen before their departure.

“I think it’s unique we’re being asked to come down from Alaska – not only because we’re the best, but because we have unique equipment that can help out in this situation,” he said. “I just wanted to stop by personally and thank you.”

The Alaska Army National Guard state command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Petersen, echoed the governor’s words.

“This is a great opportunity being that we’re in Alaska there isn’t a whole lot of times that we travel to the Lower 48 for disaster response,” Petersen said.

Senior Airman Jacob Bartlemus, a 144th AS loadmaster, said he and his colleagues are accustomed to the complex process of fitting multiple helicopters in the Globemaster’s cargo hold, where they have to be precisely arranged to ensure optimal center of balance.

“The center of balance of the load is important because if it’s off put enough, the pilots can notice dramatically,” Bartlemus said. “If it’s too far aft, it affects the control of the aircraft very substantially.”

C-17 pilot Capt. Zach Roberts said the mission highlighted the squadron’s ability to deploy state, country and worldwide for

disaster-response and contingency operations.

“It shows the capabilities and the reach of the Alaska National Guard, whether it’s Air Force or the Army,” Roberts said. “It speaks volumes about what we’re able to do and how quickly we’re able to mobilize to other states that need it.”

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