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Oklahoma Guard’s civil support team practices rope rescues

By Capt. Leanna Maschino | Oklahoma National Guard | Jan. 10, 2019

WOODWARD, Okla. – "Rescuer on the ground!" shouts a Soldier with the Oklahoma National Guard's elite 63rd Civil Support Team as he safely reaches the surface.

"Up on main!" the rest of the 63rd CST members reply as the rescuer prepares and pulls up a simulated injured person from a dangerous and confined area during the unit's ropes rescue technician training held Tuesday at the High Plains Technology Center in Woodward, Oklahoma.

"Our main mission today is to learn how to be able to lower someone down using ropes from a high point, and also to be able to raise them back up," said Capt. Aaron Dougherty, operations officer with the 63rd CST.

The weeklong training is part of an annual refresher and re-certification for members of the 63rd CST, who continually train on all tasks needed to successfully complete their mission as the Oklahoma National Guard's team of first responders. The event included the basics of rope rescue from knot tying, to the more advanced portion of rappelling down and up a steep, simulated cliff.

"Most of what we do will be in an emergency setting," Dougherty said."If for some reason during our normal mission we need to rescue one of our own people, we have the ability to rescue them. Another time we'd use this training would be to augment a search and rescue team, like [Oklahoma] Task Force 1, throughout the Oklahoma region."

The 63rd CST is filled with both highly trained and educated Soldiers and Airmen, dedicated to their mission and the community. Their mission includes supporting civil authorities during incidents with the ability to identify chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive agents or substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for additional state support.

Another crucial benefit the 63rd CST brings to a real-world situation is their mobile command center and mobile communications center, both of which allow the unit to develop products at the incident location and integrate communications systems with civilian authorities.

In order for unit members to be at the top of their game, they require frequent training such as the ropes rescue, both internally with their team members and externally with other state agencies, which allows each entity to understand each other's lingo and standard operating procedures, all to be better prepared if a real-world emergency occurs.

"You're always training and preparing for anything that could happen," Dougherty said."The things that we do are such a broad spectrum and so any given moment you're given a situation that you really have to think critically on how to solve that problem."