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NEWS | Sept. 22, 2022

Helicopter crash exercise prepares Fort Eustis for real-world scenarios

By Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- A conglomerate of units at Fort Eustis performed an aircraft down exercise with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Hampton, Virginia, Sept. 20, 2022.

     The exercise was choreographed across months of preparation by various battalions and agencies to compose a realistic emergency situation and determine the efficiency of communication and emergency services response.  

    “Each agency’s standard operating procedures, tactics, and techniques, based on their key objectives, were carefully observed,” said Jennifer Ellis, 633d Air Base Wing director of inspections.

     The geographic separation of the base poses unique challenges and communication barriers for units across JBLE. Emergency exercises are critical for safety investigations, training opportunities and providing the chance for all Airmen, Soldiers and civilians to do their part to make JBLE the best place to live and work.

    “We need to ensure we can take care of our people by being prepared for any course of action we need to take with a quick response. When you have to stop to think through something, those one to two seconds could affect someone’s life,” said U.S. Army Col. Frankie Cochiaosue, 733d Mission Support Group commander.

     According to Cochiaosue, it is impossible to preconceive the nature of an emergency, which is why a wide array of exercises are key to readiness. 

    “Practice makes perfect. We go through our toolkit and make sure we refine how we do things to ensure we’re ready for any real event, whether it’s a downed aircraft or active shooter,” Cochiaosue said.

    Through the primary, alternative, contingency and emergency communication plan, JBLE is equipping its members for any emergency situation. The PACE plan ensures accurate and timely information is shared with the appropriate people.

    “The Emergency Operations Center ensures that Fort Eustis and Langley [Air Force Base] are on the same page in an emergency situation and must react fast,” said Cochiaouse.

     According to Ellis, the various agencies came together to provide the applicable information and support for the on-site emergency services to be able to recover the simulated helicopter crash casualties.

  “The helicopter crash exercise not only showed that emergency services responded in a timely manner, but they were also focused on taking care of the nine aircrew that were onboard the helicopter,” said Ellis. “As a joint base we continue to work out communication kinks that may be discovered during an exercise to help us improve emergency services.”