By Megan Garcia, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 19, 2017) – The West Central Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force-4 Alpha conducted a 3-day structural collapse rescue exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 16-Oct.18.
West Central GSAR Task Force-4A personnel attended the three-day exercise to train on search and rescue tactics in a simulated situation where a vehicle-born improvised explosive device crashed into a building and then detonated.
The team is currently comprised of 85 firefighters from the Fort Benning Fire Department; Columbus, Georgia Fire and Emergency Medical Services; Phenix City, Alabama Fire Rescue; Auburn, Alabama Fire Department; Opelika, Alabama Fire Department; LaGrange, Georgia Fire Department; Harris County, Georgia EMS; Marion County, Georgia EMS; and Stewart County, Georgia EMS and Fire.
Every member on the task force must first attend various classes to obtain special technical skills and certifications before being placed on the team.
Rick Pagels, the West Central GSAR Task Force-4A liaison for Fort Benning, said it can take years for a firefighter to obtain the technical skills and certifications necessary to qualify for placement on a task force. In a scenario such as the one presented during the exercise, firefighters must know how to use special equipment to breech concrete and steel as well as to quickly build props or structures to support or hold up something weak or unstable, which is also known as shoring.
Aaron Bush, who works with the Columbus Fire and EMS, said being able to use this equipment during the exercise was very helpful.
“We don’t get to see this type of equipment on a daily basis, so it was good to see it and be able to use it,” said Bush. “I definitely feel better prepared. This was good training.”
Outside of familiarizing himself more with the equipment, Bush added it was also great to work with the other departments.
“We get to see how they work, and they get to see how we work, so in that way we are learning from each other,”Bush said.
Alex Dean, a firefighter with the Fort Benning Fire Department, shared the same sentiments.
“It’s wonderful to have the multi-agencies training together,” Dean said. “We all bring our ideas. They learn from us, and we learn from them. It’s a good, teamwork environment.
Pagels said it also benefits the community as each local department can depend on outlying resources from the other departments in the case of a major disaster. Outside of structural collapses, the task force is also expected to dispatch a minimum of 35 firefighters to respond to rope rescue, confined space rescue, vehicle machinery rescue, trench collapses and water rescue situations. These personnel can be pulled from any of the departments.
Nonetheless, Dean said training exercises such as these keep them prepared and on their toes, and he hopes the community knows they have their backs.
“Trust in us,” Dean said. “On your worse day, we’ll be there for you.”