Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Budding Top Gun candidate? Too soon to tell. But Colby Jones clearly looks the part with his sun glasses and his perch in the seat of the Blackhawk helicopter that was a popular attraction at Monroe Count National Night Out at Winnebago Park in Tomah Tuesday afternoon. Colby was at NNO with his mother Jessica, and his brother, Kasen. Herald photos Bob Kliebenstein.Monroe County Sheriff Wes Revels, left, and Deputy Matt Hoskins try to 'deputize' Nolan Steen for event as his mother, Tasha, looks on.

Blackhawk chopper a hit at National Night Out

It's not often family get to see how Leah Baldwin and Tim Wildes spend some of their work days.

But at Monroe County's National Night Out Tuesday at Winnebago Park, not only family, but hundreds of strangers had the opportunity. Baldwin and Wildes were two of three crew members who staffed a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at the event. It was the first time a Blackhawk was on display at NNO. Its presence was made possible by some help from Tomah police officer Melanie Marshall. Wildes is her brother and a chief warrant officer in the Wisconsin National Guard. Wildes is a member of the 1-147th Aviation Battalion. Wildes is a 2000 THS graduate. Marshall is one of the coordinators for the event.

Baldwin, a physician assistant, is a captain in the Guard. On duty, she is a Blackhawk flight surgeon. Baldwin graduated from Viroqua high school and had family at NNO. The other crew member was First Lt. Cody Biedrzycki, who pilots the Blackhawk with Wildes. He is from Burlington.

Wildes said the Wisconsin National Guard had three other Blackhawks assigned at other NNO events around Wisconsin. He was excited to be part of the crew for its first visit to Monroe County's NNO.

"Days like today, kids are wide eyed with this," Wildes said. "But it's our way of giving back to the community."

There is a process of submitting requests with the Guard to have Blackhawks on display at community events and the brother/sister team worked to make it possible.

When Baldwin heard the Blackhawk was coming to Tomah she requested and was approved for the flight assignment.

Baldwin has been a flight surgeon three years as part of her Guard duty. At 118 miles per hour flight speed the flight from Madison (Truax Field) is much shorter in the air, approximately 30 minutes, versus a drive on the interstate, she added.

Biedrzycki said the Blackhawk is relatively new, a 2006 model. Blackhawks are used for state, domestic and emergency missions, he added. The helicopter on display at Winnebago weighs around 16,500 pounds and can carry between 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of gear.

Overall, a successful night for the event, blessed with good weather and once again, strong attendance. NNO is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. It provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together and to showcase local emergency service departments and other organizations that benefit public safety and health.

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