The helicopter from the Utah Army National Guard participates in the mock rescue.
When the Utah Army National Guard teamed up recently with local law enforcement for training, a lot of learning took place. The guard was impressed with the level of professionalism and expertise the locals had to offer making the mock trainings as realistic as possible. The final assessment of the training during a week long period was held at Millsite State Park where the guard was headquartered during their time in the county.
The Emery County Search and Rescue prepared a dutch oven cobbler and ice cream dessert for the guard and the participants at the closing event. Lt. Col. Behunin said "Thank you for your hospitality. This is the best training we have ever had and your help and input has made us a better unit."
The guard members commented on the real rescue they were able to help with while in the area. They said after a week of mock exercises, the real thing helped them to react in an emergency rescue and participate in the helicopter search for the stranded rafters. Eight Emery County Search and Rescue members rode on the helicopters to aid with the search and offer medical help when the rafters were located. The helicopters were given a start position for the group and where they were supposed to exit the river. It didn't take long to spot the rafters and then the team searched for a safe landing zone to get in a position to pick them up. The team felt the communications were good during the actual rescue mission.
Team leaders felt a relationship was built during the rescue with Emery County law enforcement. This was the first time this guard group had helped with an actual rescue.
There was a map set up which showed the training locations in the Joe's Valley area. The local law enforcement teams worked to locate the guard teams that were playing the evaders in the scenario. The locals did a good job locating many of the guard and taking them down. The terrain was tough in the area and special considerations were made for the safety of the chasers and the runners.
The guard had GPS issues during the exercise and their communications seemed to be jammed.
The guard said the training was very valuable and awesome. They learned many areas where improvements are needed. They learned to evaluate just what the basics are that they need in a situation where they are shot down over enemy territory or experience mechanical failures in enemy territory. They weren't used to being the ones on the run and the situations were very realistic and much learning for both sides took place. One hint the guard had for the locals was not to leave their 4-wheelers unattended and to wear more camo because some of them were easy to spot including the man wearing the white shirt. Locals said the guard probably shouldn't leave their helicopters unattended either.
Some good natured teasing and competition existed between the guard and the locals. Another suggestion was next time those involved use paint ball guns and airsoft guns in the training. One guard member said they had under estimated the locals, "These guys are for real," he learned. So moral of the story, don't underestimate whoever is chasing you. Some of the runners wore socks over their boots to help hide their tracks. "Believe me if I'm ever shot down I am going to remember what I learned in this exercise," said Behunin. The men were on the mountain and desert all night long, but they had to stop running at dark and could begin again at daylight due to the rugged conditions. But anyone spotted on a road during the night could be taken captive.
Chad Koon and Capt. Kyle Ekker worked on the communications throughout the week long training.
Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk said, "I thought everything went fantastic. The roads were the downfall of most of the runners. We found a lot of people on the roads."
The other scenarios involved finding lost hunters and three mock traffic accidents, one near Cinderella pond below Ferron and one on Mohrland road.
One issue involved communications throughout all the events. Different frequencies and different lingo made communication difficult at times and one point which will be worked on. One suggestion was giving the other team one of the radios already programmed from their agency. Emery County Communications director Bret Mills helped work out many of the communications issues so the sheriff's office was able to hear and speak with the guard. Another suggestion was having a guard member stay with the communications center at the sheriff's office.
Another issue was the method of communicating the coordinates during the real rescue. Another concern was making sure the helicopters always had safe landing zones. At some of the sites for the scenarios there were added people at the scene observing and there were concerns for the safety of the children at these sites. The helicopters kick up a lot of dust and many people were dusted throughout the week.
Koon thanked the Emery County Sheriff's Office and all involved in the training. "What you did for us and what you put us through and the experience we gained has stretched us, big time. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it."
One guard member said, "We will compare everyone else we train with against your county, now."
Sheriff Funk said, "Thank you for what you do for our nation. Whenever you are activated and whatever you do, you are our heroes. We appreciate training with you guys and welcome you back next year. I want to thank Capt. Ekker and Capt. Thomas for the time they put in and to Bret Mills our communications director, he is our diamond. I want to thank all the other law enforcement involved, Carbon County, DWR and AP&P. We have enjoyed you guys and you are welcome at our campfire any time."
In the training objectives Capt. Ekker said the purpose of the training is to learn and grow. "The main purpose of this exercise is for military personnel to heighten their personal skills to survive in a real SERE (survive, evade, resist, extract) environment to enable them to return home safely to their families. The main purpose of this exercise for law enforcement, search and rescue and emergency medical services is to interact with military personnel.
Capt. Jeremy Tannahill from the Utah Army National Guard was instrumental in bringing the guard into Emery County for training. He is a former Emery County resident and graduate of Emery High. He worked with Capt. Ekker on planning the training exercises and with local officials in coordinating the training event.