NYANG firefighters conduct joint search and rescue training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
  • 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Firefighters from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, 106th Rescue Wing, and 105th AW, from Scotia, Long Island, and Newburgh respectively, met up at Camp Smith, New York, on Oct. 20, after convoying from their respective bases to complete three days of joint search and rescue training.

The 109th Fire Department's urban search and rescue team, the lead USAR within the New York Air National Guard, is currently the only self-sufficient fully capable mobile unit in the Air National Guard.

"As we stand now, we are mobile-ready to go anywhere, anytime," said Master Sgt. Brian Kissinger, 109th Fire Department assistant chief of operations. 

"This exercise was a proof of concept for our USAR mission set," said Lt. Col. Robert Donaldson, 109th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. "The collaboration efforts among the 109th, 106th and 105th AW USAR teams helped streamline our existing convoy capabilities and also helped refine our high angle rescue tactics, techniques and procedures.  The USAR members were able to share their valuable skill-sets with each other, and worked together as an integrated team, which made this training opportunity reach far beyond ordinary expectations."

Once at Camp Smith, the Airmen completed high angle rescue training as well as breaching and breaking training. High angle is defined as a very steep environment in which a person is primarily supported by a rope system. "Breaching and breaking is like if a building were to collapse, we would cut through the concrete using different methods," Kissinger said. Along with the rescue training, three Airmen from the 109th Vehicle Maintenance Flight who convoyed down with the firefighters, trained the 106th on skid steer operation. The skid steers are part of the debris clearance package the 109th AW obtained earlier in the year.

"A lot of my guys haven't had training on the debris clearance kits that all the units have," said Senior Master Sgt. James Nizza, 106th Fire Department chief. "(The 109th) brought their (skid steer) and now we're getting all of my guys certified on it."
Camp Smith proved to be the ideal location for the units to come together as it is the central location between Scotia and Long Island, and also had the environment the teams needed to complete the training they wouldn't be able to get at home station, including the cliff they used for the high angle training.

"We don't get the ability to do this type of training at home, and (because of that) the skills are diminishing; if we don't continue to practice it, we're going to lose the skill-set," Nizza said. He said this joint exercise gave them the opportunity to continue their training to keep the domestic operations mission going, "and it also builds the partnership with the other state units."

The Airmen agreed the importance of this type of training in keeping the Air National Guard the first choice for homeland operations. In a real-world situation, the search and rescue assets throughout the state would be activated. "Our goal is to be out the door in four hours," Kissinger said.

"This is huge training," Kissinger said. "We are now training together and learning how each unit works. This is our first joint training exercise."

"A special thanks goes out to the Camp Smith leadership for allowing us the opportunity to use their facilities and to the multitalented Airmen who made this event a huge success," Donaldson said. "I have no doubt that the support and training we received here will pay dividends when our USAR teams are called upon for their life-saving skill-sets during real-world events.  We're actively planning additional collaborative training opportunities in the very near future."