PHOTOS: BY DENISE RAY
Lake Lanier provides training for military, first responders
Local park impacted by closure
Lake Lanier proved to be a worthy training facility for Dawson County first responders as well as the 5thRanger Training Battalion on May 9 with attendees experiencing first hand water-related scenarios.
Originally scheduled for Thursday, May 4, the event was postponed due to inclement weather. Preparations for the exercise resulted in closures of the War Hill park boat ramps and parking lot.
“The Water Jump is an airborne operation where soldiers from the 5th Ranger Training Battalion parachute from Georgia Army National Guard helicopters into Lake Lanier,” Capt. Nathan Jennings, 5th Ranger Training Battalion Operations Officer said.
Ranger training consists of two phases: mountaineering and water, with mountaineering taking place in northeast Georgia, including Camp Frank D. Merrill, Dahlonega, Georgia. Water training is typically held in Florida.
“This training event will only involve our cadre and instructors from Camp Frank D. Merrill,” Jennings explained. “No students will be taking part in this training. As such we have the great opportunity to conduct this training on Lake Lanier as opposed to traveling to Florida.”
Approximately 100 jumpers were harnessed into their parachutes (and a secondary parachute), and, after having their equipment checked twice, the rangers made their way to the UH-60 Georgia Army National Guard helicopters in groups of six. They dropped from 1,500 feet and landed into the lake where waiting Zodiak boats and staff waited to take them back to shore.
Civilians watched from shaded coves, War Hill Park beach and grassy areas as jumpers procedure was repeated through out the day.
David Herrington, park visitor, arrived very early and reflected on the event.
"It was a very unique experience to view an operation of our United States military and to see the actual faces of those who put their very lives between us and our enemies," Herrington said. "Unfortunately, this experience was denied to many due to the lack of information from both the military and county as to the details of the event."
Despite the low turn out of observers, most of which were families of the military personnel, the agency presence was clearly visible.
Dawson, Forsyth, Hall first responders were there as well as members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corp of Engineers, who coordinated the event.
“The event requires a great deal of coordination,” US Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Manager Baggett explained. “We have to make sure there isn’t a conflict with public use. We have a meeting to coordinate everything with outside agencies. These agencies are our partners, we depend upon them.”
Dawson County Emergency Services typically provides Emergency Medical Services and fire units for the event in addition to a boat on the water for rescue, according to Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford.
"Members of Dawson County Emergency Services, Forsyth and Hall County Fire Departments partner to help in keeping America’s bravest safe during this important training event,” Swafford said.
The lake, which is the “fifth most visited corps lake in the nation” according to Baggett, borders on several different counties, is owned by the Corps and War Hill Park is leased to Dawson County.