by Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
10/22/2015 - STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- 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, Oct. 20, to complete three
days of joint search and rescue training.
The Airmen trained on high-angle rescues and breaching and breaking, as
well as improving their interoperability in the event they are called to
respond to a real-world disaster.
"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."
High angle rescues are those in a very steep environment in which a
person is primarily supported by a rope system, explained Master Sgt.
Brian Kissinger, 109th Fire Department assistant chief of operations.
"Breaching and breaking is like if a building were to collapse, we would
cut through the concrete using different methods," he 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,"
"This is huge training," Kissinger said. "We are now training together
and learning how each unit works. This is our first joint training
"A special thanks goes out to the Camp Smith leadership for allowing us
the opportunity to use their facilities and to the multi-talented 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."
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