Louisiana National Guard Uses Old Christmas Trees for Training Exercise

by Taylor Cunningham
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The Louisiana National Guard is putting some old Christmas trees to good use.

The guardsmen are using the discarded trees for their annual training mission called Christmas Tree Drop. The exercise teaches helicopter pilots how to maneuver objects during an emergency.

As Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gabriel Ruiz told Fox News, the trees are similar to the size and weight of water, generators, and food. So moving them around helps aviators prepare to drop those items after hurricanes.

“To prepare for those situations, we use this mission to train,” he said. “It’s the same exact type of sling, same exact type of communication, training, and mission prep for a Christmas tree all the way to a very heavy generator.” 

But the mission doesn’t just help soldiers train for natural disasters. It also benefits Louisianna’s wildlife.

The National Guard has been practicing Christmas Tree Drop for over 20 years. And in that time, it subsequently has added around 264 acres of marshland that was once lost to coastal erosion.

“We use those trees to help rebuild the habitat for different wildlife, waterfowl, crabs, and shrimp,” Cheryn Robles, the chief of staff for the Department of Public Works in New Orleans said. “All those things that you love about Louisiana, they’ll have more area to rebuild those habitats.”

The National Guard will continue collecting Christmas trees for several weeks. And the next Christmas Tree Drop will take off in the spring.

“Everybody normally wants to jump on this mission,” added Ruiz. “People are already asking about who’s going to be on the roster for this flight.” 

Thanks to a statewide driver shortage, Massachusetts national guardsmen will be manning some school buses this year.

But because not all of the soldiers know how to operate the busses, some will drive school transport vans instead.

MA Governor Charlie Baker made the announcement in September. And according to CBS Boston, 250 guardsmen were needed.

“Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded – it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with CDLs – we started talking to the Guard,” he said.

Guard members began training in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn.

“There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this,” Baker continued. “And we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important.”

The school systems will not have to cover any of the costs that come from training and paying the soldiers. Because the shortage is a result of the COVID-19, the federal government is financially responsible.

And Gov. Baker further noted that the efforts will in no way hinder the National Guard’s ability to respond to other emergencies.

Outsider.com