Waiting for assistance in an aerial search and rescue has now become a thing of the past for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office welcomed its newest addition to sheriff’s office aviation program last week -- a 0H 58C helicopter.

“This helicopter was made possible by the office applying through the 1033 Military Surplus Program,” said Henry County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Eric Blankenship. “With the helicopter coming through the military surplus program, it did not cost the sheriff’s office or any Henry County taxpayer any money. This is a huge asset to not only the sheriff’s office, but to the residents of Henry County. Henry County has a lot of water and having quick access to search for a missing hunter, boater, etc. can be the difference between life and death.”

Before the sheriff’s office received the helicopter, the office utilized its pilot glider as much as possible. In a situation where the office needed aerial assistance for escaped convicts or missing persons, the sheriff’s office called the Dale County Sheriff’s Office for assistance.

“We have been very fortunate that the Dale County Sheriff’s Office would assist us with aerial searches,” said Henry County Sheriff Will Maddox. “Over the years their department has assisted us many times, including when the fishermen went missing earlier this year. Actually, it was the helicopter that spotted the second victim. Now, by our office having our own helicopter, we can respond to an emergency situation quicker. When it comes to a missing person or a survival flight, time is not always on your side, so having equipment handy eliminates the time of having to wait for assistance before a search or rescue can begin.”

Maddox said his department would assist the Dale County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies if assistance was needed.

“Having a way to search for someone aerial is a huge assist to any department,” Maddox said. “Really, there are too many benefits to mention. All I can say is there is no end to the possibilities when you have aerial search available.”

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office is also beginning a new training program under the leadership of Blankenship and Sgt. Joshua Moore.

“With our new training program, we have six certified pilots who will volunteer their time to fly the helicopter during all search and rescues. They will serve as the department’s aviation reserve unit. Most if not all of the certified pilots are instructors out of Fort Rucker.”

The aircraft will be used in drug enforcement, locating missing persons, criminal apprehension, and search and rescue efforts, Maddox said.

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