NEWS | March 30, 2021

Kentucky Guardsmen train with search and rescue teams

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Approximately 100 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen along with several dozen members of the London-Laurel Rescue Squad and Laurel County Emergency Management cross trained on search and rescue techniques to help improve search and rescue operations March 27-30, 2021.

The simulated real world situations took place in the hilly wooded areas near the Rockcastle Campground alongside the Cumberland River.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) along with members of the Laurel County units trained on advanced use of rope systems, utilized 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 of the training is to allow the Kentucky National Guard and local emergency response agencies in the state to better work together, becoming more familiar with each other's types and styles of operations.

“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 and a Lieutenant on the London-Laurel County Rescue Squad.

“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 Michael “Wes” Walker, London-Laurel Rescue Squad.

Wes added that this is the first time many of the search and rescue squad members have worked with the military and it helps them get to see that the National Guard is more than an intimidating force but here to help the community as well.

“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,” said Walker.

Walker was given an award by Brig. Gen. Robert Larkin for excellence for his work in planning the joint rescue training event for three months and oversaw the training as incident commander.

And for Walkers squad and the CERFP, the planning and preparation paid off.

“The training has been excellent,” he 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.”

The London-Laurel Rescue Squad is comprised of 50 members that respond to auto accidents, search and rescue operations (including canine operations), drowning / near drowning, high / low angle rope operations, water rescue / recovery (including surface and subsurface operations), swift water rescue, trench rescue, building collapse, farm related rescues, confined space incidents and off-road incidents.

The Kentucky National Guard is composed of nearly 8,000 Soldiers and Airmen in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. The CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP) are an initiative of the United States National Guard designed to integrate existing National Guard units into the broader federal and local civilian emergency response personnel in instances of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) disasters.