LONDON, Ky. – Approximately 100 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen trained on search and rescue techniques with several dozen members of the London-Laurel Rescue Squad and Laurel County Emergency Management March 27-30.
The simulated situations took place in hilly wooded areas near the Rockcastle Campground alongside the Cumberland River.
Members of the Kentucky National Guard CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) and the Laurel County units trained on advanced use of rope systems, using boats and off-road vehicles to try to reach lost or injured people.
“A big part of the Kentucky CERFP mission is to be able to integrate in with local authorities,” said Army Sgt Jonathan Viveiros, search and extraction team leader. “We’re falling in with the London and Laurel Rescue Squad and they are teaching us what they do. We're taking a little bit from them while we're out here and then we're showing them some of our capabilities that we have to make that interagency relationship a little bit better.”
The goal is to enable the Kentucky National Guard and emergency response agencies in the state to work together.
“We usually train for more of an urban environment because we need to be prepared for a structure collapse, primarily in CBRNE environments,” said Viveiros. “Here, we've got an opportunity to do some of what you'll see more of in Kentucky due to terrain; we get a lot of people who get lost in the woods, so it's a good opportunity for us to learn what it's like for the search and rescue teams.”
This type of training benefits both of the entities involved, according to one of the planners.
“We are trying to put some real-life scenarios out there so if we do have to call on the CERFP, we’ll know what we are getting into and my people will know what it is like to work with the military,” said Lt. Michael “Wes” Walker, London-Laurel Rescue Squad.
It was the first time many of the search and rescue squad members have worked with the military. Walker said it helps them see that the National Guard is here to help the community.
“It’s awesome to know that if we get to that point (of needing more help) with tornadoes and other natural disasters, we won’t have to overwork our people and expend all our resources knowing that we have help, and they are training for this,” Walker said.
Walker was given an award by Brig. Gen. Robert Larkin for his work planning the joint rescue training event for three months and serving as incident commander.
“The training has been excellent,” Walker said. “There has been a lot of lessons learned on our part, a lot of hurdles we’ve worked through, but from what I’ve gathered from the military members that I’ve talked to, they all seem to really be having a good time and learned a lot.”