NEWS | Sept. 1, 2016

New sign at High-altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site tracks lives saved

By Staff Sgt. Joseph K. VonNida Colorado National Guard

The Colorado National Guard’s High-altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, in Gypsum, Colo., known as HAATS, is no secret to county first responders, mountain rescue teams, and outdoor enthusiasts.

What people may not know is that HAATS is a schoolhouse. Its primary mission is to train rotary wing pilots in power management at high altitudes.  It is the only Department of Defense aviation school that teaches pilots this skill outside of the classroom. Students come from all over the world.

Each year, outdoor enthusiasts such as snowmobilers, hikers, rock climbers, etc., flock to the Colorado high country.  And each year, many will need rescued.

HAATS aircrews provide ground crews hoist capabilities in some of the most unforgiving terrain on earth. Additionally HAATS aircraft and equipment, such as night vision googles, and extensive crew training allow these teams to reach terrain most civilian aircraft cannot.

“No one else in the state has the equipment and training we do,” said HAATS Executive Officer, Capt. Nicholas Tucker.

Whether in an UH-72 Lakota, UH-60 Blackhawk, or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Colorado National Guard members help rescuers on the ground when no one else can.

Although a schoolhouse, experienced flight instructors perform the rescues.

At HAATS, a sign with a counter for lives saved currently reads 392 since 1986, the year HAATS became a schoolhouse.

The sign, delivered in July, came from the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs staff to commemorate HAATS’ 30th anniversary Sept. 30.

Although, to Tucker, it’s not about the sign. “It’s our job,” he said. “We’re coming to get you, it’s what we do.”