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NEWS | Aug. 10, 2022

West Virginia Airmen Learn New Skills Through Rescue Training

By Senior Airman Steven Sechler, 167th Airlift Wing

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Airmen with the 167th Civil Engineering Squadron participated in a five-day swift water rescue certification course, July 18-22, at different waterfront locations in Jefferson County.

The training took them through various currents along the Shenandoah River and Potomac River in order to acquire unique skills that allow them to support Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) missions across the state.

“There’s only so much you can do to fight a natural body of water or current. Learning these techniques prevents the rescuer from becoming exhausted before they get to the victim,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Frye, a firefighter with the 167th CES. “It provides the best chance actually to do some good.”

The rescue training taught the nine Airmen how to operate rescue boats, navigate difficult currents, apply rope-saving techniques, safely rescue victims and work effectively as a team.

“We familiarized ourselves with how to use all the new equipment and safely rescue victims in hazardous conditions,” said Staff Sgt. Mitch Alerding, a firefighter with the 167th CES. “This training teaches us how to assist local fire departments better.”

Swift water rescue training is pivotal for flooding disasters. The training prepares 167th CES Airmen and elevates their capabilities for future US&R missions.

“This was the most effective training I’ve received in my career thus far,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Kief, a firefighter with the 167th CES. “I really enjoyed it too.”

US&R missions discover, rescue and treat victims of accidents or natural disasters that find themselves confined under high-risk conditions.

Berkley County Fire Department provided boats and equipment for the 167th to utilize during the training.

 “We hope to acquire our own equipment in the future,” said Alerding. “That would make this training much easier to facilitate.”

This rescue training is an Air Force-recognized certification and five 167th firefighters have already been selected for next year’s training.