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'Trained and ready': Montana Army National Guard in Billings holds open house for public

Two young boys sit in a helicopter at open house
Posted at 6:13 PM, May 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-06 21:08:34-04

BILLINGS — On Saturday, an open house was held at the Montana Army National Guard’s operations facility in Billings. It was a chance for residents to check out everything happening at the new Limited Army Aviation Support Facility, and learn about what the service members are doing to remain prepared for anything.

"Today is our open house for the city of Billings. Really just want to invite the public up to see what we do, and give everybody an idea of what our capabilities are and what our plans are for the future,” said Noah Genger, the Battalion Commander of the Montana Army National Guard in Billings, on Saturday. "We love bringing people in. They can see what it is their neighbors are doing. Most of their neighbors are probably in The Guard or they probably know somebody that’s training with us. And we want to really just kind of build that relationship."

Genger said construction of a new facility is in the works.

“We have funding for a new $52 million state-of-the-art flying facility that will be built just east of here. That will house six helicopters. We’re excited,” Genger said. “Currently we’re leasing this hanger. When we get our facility built, which the plan is by the end of 2026, then we’ll move all of our helicopters and all of our people into that building."

Noah Genger
Noah Genger

The Montana Army National Guard recently started aviation operations at the Limited Army Aviation Support Facility in Billings, located at 2121 Hanger Drive.

Saturday's open house welcomed the public from 11 AM to 4 PM.

Two young boys sit in a helicopter at open house
Two young boys sit in a helicopter at open house

“We couldn’t be happier to be partners with the whole community of Billings and the surrounding areas,” Genger said. “Obviously I’m always looking for anybody that’s interested. If you want to learn how to be everything from a mechanic to a fueler to a pilot. We’ve got a great program, and I think we’ve got the best aviators in the country. So we’d love to have anybody come join us."

Genger said his favorite part about being in the service is the people.

“The people. Always," Genger said. "I mean, we get to do cool things, I’ve been all over the world. Flying over Montana is a bonus. But it’s the people.”

The Adjutant General for the State of Montana, Maj. Gen. Pete Hronek, was excited about the opportunity to welcome the public into the facility.

“We’ve been here since January and we’ve been operating since January. We’ve been flying in the neighborhood, just trying to be good neighbors and let people know more about what we do,” Hronek said on Saturday. "(The terrain is) perfect for us to train and operate."

Pete Hronek
Pete Hronek

Hronek said the facility has been in the works for nearly two decades.

“This has been an idea that we’ve been working on since 2005. So this did not happen overnight," Hronek said. "We just saw the capability. A lot of the things came together with working with the community."

Hronek says ensuring the protection of service members and the community is a top priority.

“Safety’s always first. Mission first, safety always type of a thing. We’re very well trained in it. We always encourage them to work as a team, to be able to highlight stuff that might not be going right and to work together. So it’s very important to us," Hronek said. "In the National Guard, we do a civilian role too. So a lot of our training transfers over to any kind of search and rescue operations we might be needing to do."

Helicopter at facility
Helicopter at facility

And now that there's a support facility in Billings, eastern Montana can benefit from quick response times by the Army National Guard. The only other Montana Army Aviation Support Facility is in Helena.

"To have us in the Eastern part of the state, I think the capabilities are going to be huge for that," Hronek said. "And again, the community has been just super responsive. And the civic leaders really welcomed us in, so that’s been good."

During last June's floods, the Montana Army National Guard based out of Helena assisted in life-saving rescues in and around Carbon County.

“88 people were actually put on the helicopters and moved. They were so grateful. Just their facial expressions, a thousand words. It was kids and families, and a lot of people weren’t even from this state," Hronek said. "But we were there, and (they were) very grateful that we showed up. (We) were very responsive."

Rescue from Roscoe
Rescue from Roscoe

To learn more about the Limited Army Aviation Support Facility in Billings, click here.

“We want the public to know that we’re constantly trained and ready. Our crews are trained and ready," Noah Genger said. "We’re ready to respond to whatever the community, or the nation, calls us to."