Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Connie McAfferty
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

Lincoln kids among those evacuated from Augusta-area bible school


Darryl Floweres - Fairfield Sun Times

Paul Hill (camouflage jacket) director of the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible, escorts the first group of 35 campers and counselors, including several Lincoln students, off a Montana Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook to the staging area at Great Falls airport.

Six teenagers from Lincoln were among 137 students and leaders from the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible who boarded CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Montana Army National Guard's 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion for the long trip home Thursday, June 21. It turned out to be a summer Bible camp week that they will never forget.

Governor Steve Bullock's state of emergency order during the catastrophic floods in Lewis and Clark County this month opened the way for the Montana Army National Guard to rescue the group from the MWSB campus in the Dearborn Canyon facility and return them to the waiting arms of their families and youth group leaders.

Montana Wilderness School of the Bible is normally a quick 45-minute drive from Lincoln over Rogers Pass and north on the Bean Lake Road toward Augusta, but because Rogers Pass was closed, the Lincoln caravan had to make a three-hour trip through Helena and up Interstate 15 to retrieve the six teens at the Great Falls airport, where the two Chinook helicopters planned to land.

A throng of parents and church family waited in the hanger at Holman Aviation, scanning the skies and eagerly waiting for the thump-thump-thump of the rotor blades announcing the approach of the rescued group.

The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's office put in the request for help from the National Guard. Sheriff Leo Dutton said his office made the decision to evacuate bible school students out of the concern that worried parents might try to brave the flooding to pick up their kids.

"We were comfortable with the students where they were at. What we were not comfortable with was being able to control that many parents," Dutton said. "It wasn't that (the kids) were in peril, but it probably avoided a situation where we would have had someone in peril."

The airlift also helped get several contractors, who were also stranded in the Diammond Bar X area, home to their families.

Montan National Guard

Campers file onto a waiting Chinook for the bumpy ride out of the Dearborn Canyon Thursday, June 21.

It was an emotional moment when the first helicopter landed. Spilling out of the tail section of the giant two-rotor helicopter came the bedraggled and happy campers, waving to the parents they spotted, and lining up obediently to be "signed out" by the MWSB staff.

In a light-hearted spirit, Hailey Corrigan from Lincoln said, "They were so anxious to send us home that they had to call in the Army!"

When asked about the flight to Great Falls, Jason Cousins told of the extreme turbulence over the mountains as the big Chinook maneuvered through a driving rain and thunderhead clouds. This might have been a moment for the campers to practice the Bible verses they had memorized during the week for comfort and encouragement.

Giving her pastor, Art McCafferty, a big hug in the hanger, Jaylin Lewenight said, "Thank you for sending us to camp!"

And the silent prayer of every parent and church leader may have been, " And thank you, Lord, for bringing them home."


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