The Blackhawk helicopters Central New Yorkers have seen overhead recently are part of Fort Drum’s medical evacuation training for soldiers and pilots, and it sometimes involves landing on Upstate University Hospital’s helipad. (See video, below.)
The training exercises involve a unit that returned from Afghanistan in September — the C Company, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. Brig. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl told the Watertown Daily Times that the training would continue until the medevac unit deploys, which is projected in the next 18 months.
Dahl says the Army helicopters will be used only for training and transporting soldiers injured during on-post training exercises. During training, the soldiers transport a series of sandbags playfully named Spc. John Dough.
Upstate’s helipad was designed to accommodate the Sikorsky Blackhawk, a two-engine helicopter that is large enough to carry a crew of three and 11 troops when it’s not modified for medevac missions. The military has relied on Blackhawks since the early 1980s for a variety of operations, including the apprehension of Osama bin Laden last May.