Blawk Hawk pilot says rescue missions are from the heart

Some of the most gut-wrenching and heart warming scenes we've witnessed from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey have been the dozens and dozens of rescues.

AUSTIN - John Thresher is a Black Hawk pilot who helped rescue hundreds of people left homeless after Hurricane Harvey devastated several Texas cities.

Along with the entire Texas Army National Guard, Thresher was activated Aug. 28.

He said he has flown and followed the storm from Corpus Christi to Rockport to Victoria and finally to the Houston-area.

His unit, the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, works with Texas Task Force One to help flood victims.

He has been flying search and rescue missions since Harvey hit.

"It's a mission of the heart. You see folks on the ground. We're Texans and they're Texans," said Thresher.

Thresher said it's extraordinary that thousands of first responders and civilians have come from all around the country to help those in need.

"This is Texas, this is America -- that to me, you know, the Charlottesville or any of those kinds of events are a microcosm," he said. "It's a very small minority and although they get a lot of press and they get a lot of air time, this is real. This is what I experience on a daily basis," Thresher said.

Whether by air or on the ground, the 36th Infantry Division carried humans and their four-legged friends to land and safety.

Thresher's unit alone saved hundreds of lives.

One of those rescues only happened because his crew chief saw a boat in distress.

"All of a sudden, their motor quit. He saw them sweep them underneath an overpass and eventually collide into a tree with their boat, basically destroying and sinking their boat ... Both of the Florida game wardens were clinging to trees in very fast moving water and if our unit's crew hadn't had been there. That's a miracle in my mind. If our crew hadn't had been there, those guys wouldn't have made it," Thresher said.

But of those rescues weren't easy.

"It was almost a pressure cooker of experience. Thirty hours of flight time in these kinds of conditions with 500-foot ceilings and one mile of visibility, sometimes less in driving rain, having to operate in 30 to 35 knot wind, trying to hover an aircraft, that's 100 to 150 feet, while we lower a rescue swimmer to a pinpoint, a 3 foot by 3 foot block to somebody's front porch to get them and bring them out -- it's extraordinarily difficult," Thresher said. 

What's even more extraordinary to Thresher is that rescuers came from all over the country.

Those Florida game wardens he helped rescue, for example.

Thresher said while we are Texans, he'll remember the thousands of first responders and civilians working together, helping those in need.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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