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News Arkansas Guard rescues boy scouts stranded by flood waters

Arkansas National Guard
By Army Capt. Chris Heathscott
May 4, 2011

The Arkansas Army National Guard deployed a UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter just after midnight, May 2, in an effort to assist in the search and rescue of six Boy Scouts and two adults stranded in the vicinity of Albert Pike as a result of recent flooding in the area.

Members of a Boy Scout group from Louisiana who were stranded by floodwaters in a remote section of the Ouachita National Forest in southwest Arkansas enjoy the view from an Arkansas National Guard helicopter that rescued them early Tuesday, May 3, 2011. The six Scouts and two adult leaders had been stranded without communications since Sunday. (Photo by Army Capt. Christopher Heathscott, Arkansas National Guard)

The Guard members successfully located the campers and flew them to safety at approximately 7 a.m., May 3.

The helicopter and crew from A Company, 114th Aviation Regiment, Security and Support Team with the Arkansas Army National Guard, this morning were able to locate and rescue the group from a remote area of the Ouachita National Forrest in southwest Arkansas.

The Boy Scout group from Louisiana had been on a weekend camping trip when heavy rains and storms across the state caused flooding in surrounding streams and cut the group off from their trailhead.

The rugged terrain, heavy weather and dense forest also cut them off from any type of communication signal to contact authorities or families.

The Guard helicopter, piloted by Army Chief Warrant Officer David Specht and co-piloted by Army Chief Warrant Officer Todd Adams, was requested around 3 p.m. on Monday, May 2, to support a search operation by local law enforcement officials near the Albert Pike Camp Ground in Montgomery County.

Inclement weather and heavy rains had hampered search operations and deterred helicopter flights through the mountainous area.

The Guard members consulted weather information and saw that rains and high winds were to clear the search area late in the evening on Monday, so they opted to do a late night search using night vision equipment and the helicopter’s array of sensors to locate the stranded campers.

After locating the team of Scouts, Guard members dropped several bags containing food, water, blankets and a radio to sustain the team until morning because it was too dangerous to attempt a landing in the heavily wooded area in the dark.

After refueling and waiting for daylight, the Guard members returned to the site where the campers were just before 7 a.m., Tuesday, May 3, and found a very narrow landing site along a stream where they were able to pick up the campers and their gear and reunite them with family waiting at the search area command center.

Specht said the most difficult portion of the rescue was finding a location near the scouts to land the helicopter.

“Getting in to them was tough. We had to snake down into a narrow area right along a stream and try to stay out of the water at the same time,” said Specht.

The crewmembers said the rewarding part of the mission was getting the campers out to reunite with their families who were very anxious, since they had not had contact with the missing scouts since Saturday, April 30.

“I was pretty nervous when we first touched down, not knowing what the fates of any of the Scouts were… if any were injured or worse,” said Adams. “Of course you never want anything to happen to kids if it can be prevented. So I felt a lot better when we made contact with one of the leaders and he gave us the thumbs up.”

Specht, who has been flying with the National Guard for over 16 years, said this was not his first rescue mission, but it was the first time he had actually flown a rescue mission where he picked up individuals.

“Normally we don’t do the pick up,” he said. “Instead we guide ground crews in to the location to do the rescue and move people to safety. This situation was unique because the water had cut them off from any kind of ground movement.”

Adams said, “We fly a lot together, so that helps us know what each other is thinking and doing when we get in tight spots and situations that require us to communicate precisely on what we each need to do to maneuver the aircraft safely.”

Once the mission was complete Guard officials reviewed the video of the mission and lauded both Specht and Adams for their skill and precision in operating their UH-72A Lakota helicopter in the narrow recesses of the stream clearing in order to pick up the stranded Scouts.


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