CHARLESTON, SC, UNITED STATES
CHARLESTON, S.C. – As Hurricane Florence continues to bring heavy rain and flooding throughout the South Carolina coast, many people are alive today thanks to the Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, or HART, a joint effort that pairs South Carolina Army National Guard aviation assets with the South Carolina State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.
The team responds to a variety of highly-challenging water rescue emergencies, using South Carolina Army Guard helicopters to deliver local and state first responders.
“We have been able to combine state and National Guard capabilities to not only support the citizens of South Carolina, but the nation as well,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with the South Carolina Army Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment.
Members of the HART deployed to Texas last year to perform rescue missions during Hurricane Harvey and were active at home in South Carolina during 2015’s “thousand-year flood,” saving 35 South Carolinians on their first day of operations.
The team is one of six National Guard HARTs in the country and can rescue people from windows, balconies and other obstacles inaccessible by other means. The team often works alongside other local first responders in an emergency.
“Our departments let us come and support the HART during emergencies like [Florence],” said Scott Jackson, a firefighter in Greenville, S.C.
The partnership is about neighbors helping neighbors, Tripp said.
“Not only are we Citizen-Soldiers in the National Guard, our team is comprised of citizens who are first responders in their own respective neighborhoods,” he said.
While the full effects of Florence are yet to be seen, Tripp assured the HART will keep beating, because they are prepared for any mission “wherever we are needed.”