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Published August 22 2012

Governor: Black Hawk in Fargo ‘a breakthrough’ (with video)

FARGO – After years of military consolidation, the Pentagon’s decision to allow the North Dakota Army National Guard to move some of its helicopters from Bismarck to Fargo bodes well for the future, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Wednesday.

“It’s a breakthrough, really, in terms of where we’re going, and I think it has significance down the road when we start talking about airplanes, as well,” he said.

With a UH-60 Black Hawk as their backdrop, Dalrymple and other dignitaries assembled in a hangar near the Air National Guard base in north Fargo to announce the shifting of some Army Guard aerial resources to eastern North Dakota.

A Black Hawk will now be permanently stationed in Fargo, and two more are anticipated to be here by 2014, Guard officials said.

Two types of light-utility helicopters – the UH-72 Lakota and OH-58 Kiowa – also will rotate between Bismarck and Fargo.

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, said locals will see the helicopters carrying out training missions, as well as search-and-rescue missions, equipment and personnel transport and other duties during emergency situations such as floods.

“That’s really what it’s all about is having the resources, having the capability here to support what is in fact the largest population center in the state of North Dakota,” he said.

A facility in Bismarck has housed the Army Guard’s aerial assets since 1958. As a result, recruitment for helicopter-related positions was limited to central North Dakota so that part-time Guard members wouldn’t have to drive 200 to 300 miles for training, Sprynczynatyk said.

“And now we’re going to have the ability to recruit from this region, from this area, and that provides a lot of opportunity for young people,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said the helicopters give officials a different perspective during floods. Black Hawks were used to drop 1-ton sandbags during major flooding in 2009 and 2011.

“I think it’s a great asset to the citizens of our city,” Walaker said.

Four full-time Guard members will be stationed with the first Black Hawk in Fargo, Sprynczynatyk said. The number of personnel is expected to grow to 25 full- and part-timers by 2014 as plans for a Fargo-based medevac unit come to fruition.

The North Dakota Guard currently has eight Black Hawk helicopters, which are subject to overseas deployments. Sprynczynatyk said he hopes to eventually have 14.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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