/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
Minnesota National Guard
Helicopter Used in Deer and Wolf Study

High above the Jack Pine forested area in the northwest portion of the 53,000 acre Camp Ripley Military Reservation last month, John Olson piloting a Hughes 500 helicopter spotted several whitetail deer running through the woods  Olson swooped down, which felt like rolling down the first hill aboard a roller coaster, to tree level and began to attempt to flush the deer from the woods into a clearing  At the same time, his assistant, Roger Small, seated next to him in the co-pilot's seat, leaned outside the open-air chopper waiting with his right foot on the chopper's skid

Small was waiting to get close enough to shoot a blank from a 308-caliber Mauser action hand-held gun which would deploy a 10 by 10 foot net with four, half-pound weights on each corner over the deer  The chase was on  The deer darted back and forth and bounded toward the woods  Olson had but one chance to nab the deer as Jack Pine trees began to loom in the cockpit glass below his feet

Bang, Small shot and the net fell over the deer, immediately slowing him down  "The trees were looming large," is all a lanky Olson said as he trudged into the waist-high snow en route to helping Small with carrying the deer back to the helicopter  Once the net landed on the deer, Olson landed the helicopter  Small jumped from the chopper before the skids hit the snow and chased after the deer  Once he caught the deer, he removed the net and tied the deer's legs with a special strap

Once Olson and Small reached the helicopter, the deer with its head covered to keep sunlight and debris out of its eyes was tethered to the helicopter and flown back to a research crew on the ground  This was all in a days work for Olson, vice-president of Helicopters by OZ of Marysvale, Utah  This also was Olson's first season as the chief pilot  He was replacing his partner and chief pilot who suffered a broken back in an earlier helicopter accident  

In two days at Camp Ripley, Olson captured two timber wolves, including the 100-pound Alpha Male, and 19 deer, including a buck  The buck was outfitted with an expandable Global Positioning System (GPS) collar which the Brainerd Minnesota Deer Hunters Association Chapter helped fund  This collar will allow the buck's neck to grow normally during mating season or rut  The deer also had their girth measured, and an incisor tooth removed to determine its ages and its blood sampled

While all this research was being completed, Olson was already busy in search of more deer despite the teeth-chattering and toe-numbing wind chills in the cockpit  He noted the reason he does this type of helicopter work is because, "It's exciting"  "The low level work is the funnest part," he said  "It's probably one of the riskiest things you can do in a helicopter"

This 48-year old who has flown helicopters since 1983 definitely knows about risk  For eight years he flew over bodies of water in Central America, South America and the South Pacific in search of tuna for tuna fisherman  This meant flying three to four feet above the ocean and not seeing land for two to three months  He said his mission was to fly out and find the fish all the while making sure he didn't run out of fuel

In aerial net gunning of animals, his risks include flying into trees, wires and fences while attempting to capture an animal  Other mishaps that could happen include nets landing in the chopper's main rotor or skid, or nets connected to the animal and the aircraft at the same time

Olson did have an unusual accident  One of the net's weights separated and hit the main rotor while he was eight to ten feet in the air  He said the helicopter started swinging like a pendulum  He did manage to straighten it out and hover for another 100 yards  "It wasn't exactly on auto but I wasn't able to keep it in the air either," he said  He noted just as he and his crew landed the helicopter and exited it, the blades literally "beat the helicopter to death", and in the process completely destroyed it "Kind of like being shot down," he added

Olson has definitely not been "shot down" so far this season as far as work goes  He captured wolves and Bison in Yellowstone, elk near Los Alamos, New Mexico, and elk and Bighorn Sheep in Colorado  The Bison have been the biggest animal his team has netted  He said it took four handlers to subdue the Bison

"I stay in the helicopter," Olson said with a laugh  "I think I'll draw the line at the Bison"  Olson, originally from California began his career piloting fixed-wing aircraft 26 years ago  He said a friend of his who was a crop duster pilot taught him how to fly  "I've always liked low-level flying as well," he said  "I just don't find it very fun being high in the air going somewhere  I'd rather be right down on the deck and seeing what there is"

Olson also tries to "stay on the deck" year round  The aerial gunning opportunities last from September until March, Olson added that he is going "full bore" in November and December  After March, he and his crew will staff seismic fires and undertake external load work  "Just about anything you can do with a helicopter we try to do it," he said  He also has the only approved ski-mounted gun on his helicopter in the lower 48 states, which is pilot controlled

By Sgt Clinton Wood

Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Minnesota Guardsmen learn survival skills, train with Norwegian counterparts

Posted: 2018-07-03  01:36 PM
NOREX 45 Over the course of 10 days, 100 Soldiers and Airmen from the Minnesota National Guard who traveled to Norway June 17-26, 2018, for the 45th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange learned valuable survival skills and shared their knowledge with members of the Norwegian Home Guard. This year's exchange was the second to take place during the summer months in the history of the longest-running military partnership between two nations.

"It was a great experience for both the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard," said Capt. 'Kiwi' HorgA�ien, the senior Norwegian instructor. "A cultural exchange, a social exchange and military exchange all packed into one."

The 45th exchange got off to a late start, with flight delays causing the trip to be shortened from its normal length of two weeks. The delay meant that the Minnesota Guardsmen jumped right into training, heading out to the field after just a few hours of sleep.

133rd Airlift Wing Emphasizes Combat Readiness Training

Posted: 2018-06-29  10:48 AM
Alpena ALPENA, Michigan - Approximately 300 U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing participated in a readiness exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Alpena, Mich.

The exercise, tagged as Iron Ore, was designed test the Airmen abilities to set up operations at an unfamiliar location and receive in depth training on Ability-To-Survive and Operate (ATSO) principles while supporting airlift and aeromedical flight operations.

To ensure mission success and readiness, Airmen had to complete training at home station prior to leaving for Alpena. Some of this training included weapons qualification, gas mask fit testing, Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) familiarization, self-aid and buddy care and career field training.

Red Bulls Kickoff Division Warfighter

Posted: 2018-06-13  01:38 PM
DIV WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - "A Warfighter is an exercise that allows the Division to evaluate their ability to maneuver assets in a battle," said Master Sgt. Greg Weaver, the Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. "It is designed to focus on particular areas and specific objectives to be evaluated or tested."

The Division has geared its' planning and training efforts in preparation for Warfighter since July 2017. Coordinating transportation for Soldiers and equipment was often on the mind of Maj. David Johansson, the logistics officer for the 34th ID. With the coordination of Johansson and his team, troops and equipment all converged on Camp Atterbury, enlisting the help of 89 railcars, 280 tractor-trailers, and nearly 50 buses for the movement.

"I like to say my job is to 'quiet the noise'". Johansson continued, "The noise being a real life logistical problem that could impede the exercise."

Minnesota-based aviation unit takes part in Warfighter Exercise

Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
34ECAB WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - More than 150 Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade are here participating in a multi-echelon training event, Warfighter Exercise 18-5, May 30 to June 15.

The exercise, which is part live and part virtual, is testing the St. Paul, Minnesota-based aviation unit's ability to conduct operations and mission command in a high-intensity, complex operating environment. Soldiers are being challenged to take decisive action as they focus on air-ground operations -- or synchronizing and integrating aviation operations into the scheme of maneuver planned and conducted by forces on the ground.

In this case, the units on the ground are being commanded by the Rosemount, Minnesota-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, which is also participating in the exercise.

Article archive