Story by: Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
Posted: May 19, 2015
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Members of Texas Task Force 1 and the Texas Military Forces positioned at the Army aviation support facility in Grand Prairie, received a call from a local agency early-morning May 17, 2015, to rescue a couple stranded in front of their mobile home in Johnson County.
“When we arrived on scene, we were looking around the area for hazards and for any situation that could arise to ensure we could safely hoist the stranded couple up,” said Army National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Blake Arrington, pilot of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Texas Military Forces. “The house was next to the river and the river rose due to the heavy rainfall. Their home was surrounded by water while the current kept ground rescuers away.”
The ground rescue operation failed due to the strong current pushing the boat away from the mobile home. At one point the first responders used a drone to drop a line to the couple and anchor it to their trailer. The line was used to pull a rescue raft towards the couple and extract them from the flood waters. The attempt failed. The call came in to Texas Task Force 1 and the flight was generated.
“The biggest issue we had were wires,” said Arrington. “We had to position the Black Hawk in the best possible way for our swimmers and the victims. We worked together as a team - from the crew chief, to the pilots, to the swimmers.”
The rescue team comprised of two Texas National Guard pilots, two Texas Task Force 1 swimmers and a Texas National Guard crew chief, each skillfully trained to conduct search and rescue operations for distressed Texans.
It is the swimmers’ job to rescue the stranded from the disaster area, while the crew chief’s job is to be the go-between for the pilots and swimmers.
“He is our main eyes between the pilots and the swimmers. He controls the cable for the swimmers and tells the pilot where to move the Black Hawk,” said Arrington. “The swimmers are a vital part of rescuing; they interact with the victims extracting them from the dangerous situation.”
Once the couple was hoisted into the Black Hawk and secured, they were flown to safety a half mile away, into the hands of local first responders where they were examined for any possible injuries. The couple, safely evacuated from the flood waters, was able to return to their home by nightfall.
“We are just Texans helping Texas, said Arrington. “Here to do a job.”
The Texas Military Forces is made up of the Army and Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard who work for the Governor of Texas during domestic operations. The Texas Military Forces partners with local, state and federal agencies when called upon to support domestic operations and often partners with Texas Task Force 1. Texas Task Force 1 is comprised of various first-responder agencies from the State of Texas who provide search and rescue during domestic operations. Texas Task Force 1 is the most active urban search and rescue team in the country. Both teams are trained and skilled in responding to man-made and natural disasters.