ST. CLOUD - This week in our "Behind The Scenes" series on WJON we take you into the St. Cloud National Guard helicopter base.

Located right next to the regional airport, the base has served as a valuable location for the Minnesota National Guard since 2009.

The facility covers nearly 140,000 square feet and holds both Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. Lieutenant Colonel Gary Jorgensen is the Facility Commander at the base, he says one major purpose for the helicopters is helping the state with natural disasters.

"To respond to natural disasters, being floods and fires-probably our most high visibility missions are the firefighting with the water buckets," Jorgensen says.

While fighting fires, the helicopters can use buckets that are capable of carrying up to 2,000 gallons of water.

The helicopters can also be called upon to assist law enforcement and rescue teams in Minnesota.

"Helping local law enforcement and any periods of unrest where we would be called by the Governor," Jorgensen says.

Safety is the number one priority in the facility in order to protect soldiers and keep the helicopters running at their best. The helicopters are constantly maintained and repaired to ensure that they’re ready for missions.

Flying one of these helicopters usually takes years of training. After spending one year of training in Fort Rucker Alabama, pilots will continue training exercises in Minnesota bases.

The helicopter base has been open for over five years and has a target life span of 60-70 plus years.


A Chinook helicopter at the St. Cloud National Guard Helicopter Base. (Dan DeBaun, WJON News)