BILLINGS — There’s been plenty to look at in the sky around Billings lately, and now you can add Blackhawk helicopters to the list. The Montana National Guard is making Billings its new home for full-time helicopter operations.
“With everything else that was going on in the national news media with the Billings area, there’s a lot of speculation of what we’re doing here,” said Major Dustin Horswill, commander of the new Limited Aviation Support Facility in Billings on Tuesday.
The helicopters’ arrival has actually been in the works for a while, and the only other Montana Army Aviation Support Facility is in Helena.
“There’s large capabilities gap area here in Eastern Montana, and the Western Dakotas, Northern Wyoming,” Horswill said.
The facility on Airport Road is here to change that, complete with four Blackhawk helicopters and 13 full-time National Guard members.
“It’s really two-fold for us, (to) provide that capability to the people of the area here but also allow people to join our organization and do exactly this, do what we’re doing,” said Horswill.
Horswill commands the unit. He said their primary mission is to train to win any battle they’re called into, which can sometimes be in their own backyard.
Last summer, Guard helicopters had to rescue numerous people during record flooding in Carbon and Stillwater counties.
“I think it was 60-something people they actually hoisted up. And a couple of dogs ‘cuz we didn’t want to leave the dogs behind,” Horswill said.
The group in Billings just completed their first drill training over the weekend, and there’s still plenty more to do.
“People will see us a lot more often now,” said Horswill.
And they’re scheduling tours at their facility for those who are curious about what they do.
“It’s really nice for us to be able to talk to the community, show them what we’ve got going on,” Horswill said.
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