First names used for Operational Security.
SAN DIEGO--Just as bears awaken from their winter slumber and prepare for the summer food gathering season, the National Guard Counterdrug Aviation team revs up its engines in preparation for counterdrug aviation law enforcement support, and the summer domestic cannabis suppression season. The first steps toward Counterdrug summer activities begin in the classroom.
As part of the ground work for 2015 Counterdrug Aviation Operations, Army and Air National Guard Counterdrug personnel gathered at the Naval Base San Diego, California, 32nd Street, March 17-20 to attend the National Guard Counterdrug Program's Aviation Course.
Army National Guard Pilot in Command and Air National Guard Aircraft Commanders and Mission System Operators must attend the National Guard Counterdrug Aviation Course in order to perform Counterdrug Aviation missions.
National Guard Counterdrug teams are a force multiplier for law enforcement. They support law enforcement with cases the LEAS have constructed over months of investigation.
"Counterdrug missions are unique missions with distinctive requirements because we fly in support of law enforcement," said Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Taylor, National Guard Counterdrug Aviation Branch Chief.
Counterdrug aircrews support law enforcement through reconnaissance and observation, domestic cannabis suppression operations, transportation, and law enforcement training. Counterdrug aviation also provides support to community based organizations.
"Supporting law enforcement agencies (LEA) with military assets requires a high degree of legal and Constitutional knowledge," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ronald Menoher, Counterdrug Aviation Operations and Safety Officer.
"Our people operate on the front lines and need to be able to make intelligent decisions without immediate access to senior leadership," Taylor said. "It is important that our people understand the policy and the laws that guide our mission, and this course teaches those things."
Attendees receive instruction in aviation tactics, State Plan development, legal issues and case law, mission approval process, surveillance and eradication strategies and techniques, communication systems, advanced Intelligence and Reconnaissance and thermography, pre-mission planning, mission reporting, and public affairs.
Students also get a historical perspective and a brief on the current threats affecting not only the mission but the nation as a whole.
"I learned many different techniques that can be used back at my home state," an attendee said.
In addition to the doctrine, attendees are given the opportunity to network and learn best practices from one another.
"This course facilitated valuable networking that broadened my perspective of Counterdrug aviation operations," said Air National Guard Lt. Col. Michael, RC-26 pilot. "The relationships made here have already provided an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our missions."
Upon return to their home state, Counterdrug aviation crews will carry on the mission born in Hawaii in 1977.
Hawaii's "Operation Green Harvest," a marijuana eradication mission, laid the foundation for the National Guard Counterdrug Program. Hawaii law enforcement sought Hawaii National Guard helicopter transport support as LEAs worked to eradicate marijuana in the islands. By 1983, four other states were supporting LEAs with Counterdrug operations. Thirty two states were on board by 1988. In 1989, the National Defense Authorization Act established the Department of Defense as the federal government's lead agency in support of law enforcement agencies for the detection and monitoring of illegal drugs in the Unites States. This solidified the National Guard's role as an integral support agency for law enforcement in the battle against illicit drugs and Drug Trafficking Organizations. By 1994, 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia had established Counterdrug Programs.
Since 1989, the National Guard Counterdrug Aviation program has provided more than 900,000 flight hours of law enforcement support.
Aerial support assets include the fixed wing RC-26, and C-130 Hercules, and the rotary wing HH-60 Pave Hawk, UH-72 Lakota, UH-60 Black Hawk, and CH-47 Chinook.
Currently, these aircraft are principally grounded. But, the days are growing longer and the sun is burning brighter. Bears are emerging from hibernation and foliage is reappearing on the thawing lands. Gathering food is possible. Like the bears, National Guard Counterdrug Aviation is stirring from the winter slow down. With the first Aviation policy course of 2015, engines are revving. An increase in law enforcement support and summer domestic cannabis suppression missions are imminent.
National Guard Counterdrug Aviation Course attendees speak with Kevin Means prior to class March 20 at the Naval Base San Diego, California, 32nd Street. Army National Guard Pilot in Command, Air National Guard Aircraft Commanders and Mission System Operators are required to attend the National Guard Counterdrug Aviation Course to perform Counterdrug Aviation missions. The course trains attendees on the unique requirements and demands of the Counterdrug mission. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Betty J. Squatrito-Martin, Counterdrug public affairs/released)