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Face of Defense: Indiana Guard, FEMA Partner at Exercise

By Army Sgt. Brandon K. Anderson 13th Public Affairs Detachment

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BUTLERVILLE Ind., August 5, 2014 — Shortly after a 911 call is placed, a team of amphibious rescue firefighters arrive on the scene of a lake where a family member is frantically waiting for a loved one who has failed to return after swimming in the lake.

This was the scenario being played out on the shoreline of Brush Creek Reservoir here Aug. 4, when soldiers from the 381st Military Police Company, Indiana Army National Guard, and members of Ohio Task Force 1, combined in a joint training exercise as part of Vibrant Response 14 exercise held near Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

Ohio Task Force 1, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's water rescue team for Ohio, made the trip to join in the multi-agency training exercise.

Ray Smith, a hazardous material and water team manager for Ohio Task Force 1, said the lake shore operation was meant to simulate what would happen if a team was called in to search for a possible drowning victim.

“Our team is conducting this mission as part of a search-and-rescue scenario,” Smith said. “We're launching four boats with two-man teams in them to search the shores of the reservoir and then will use GPS to mark the location of each victim.”

After recovering the “victims” they are delivered to soldiers waiting on the shore to be evaluated and evacuated for further treatment, he said.

Although this is part of the Vibrant Response 14 exercise, everyone on the rescue-teams are firefighters in Ohio and train for this type of scenario.

“Anytime there would be a flood in their local jurisdiction, these guys would be involved in this kind of operation,” Smith said.

The soldier charged with administering first aid for the simulated casualty, Army Pfc. David Ladd, a combat medic assigned to the 381st Military Police, said working with the rescue team has been a great experience for him.

“I just got out of advanced individual training and having this type of experience is great for me,” Ladd said. “I'm hoping to get a job as an emergency medical technician and I think this kind of training will help me in my job as a combat medic.”

Having the ability to train alongside different agencies like FEMA is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, Ladd said. One rescue team member, Josh Compton, agrees with him.

“I've been with the task force for seven years now and have been a firefighter for 13 and have noticed that over the years we're doing more and more with the military,” Compton said. “When I first got on, there was very little interaction between the two groups, but now it's pretty common.”

Compton, who has deployed in response to numerous hurricanes in the past, said the water rescue team is a new concept for FEMA, and he sees the benefit.

“You never know when you'll be in a situation where you'll not only need this type of team but also will be working with the military, and this training will go a long way for preparing them and us,” he said.