Air Guard Rescue Unit Practices Skills During Exercise

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – When the 212th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard arrived on-scene, the apartment complex was a jumble of broken concrete and unstable support beams.

An aftershock from an 8.5 magnitude earthquake the day earlier had collapsed the structure, large slabs had crushed cars and some sections were barely recognizable as a building.

Squadron members prepared their gear. Their mission: Enter the remains of the building, shore up unstable areas and extract a victim caught in the rubble.

The rubble and mission were real; the earthquake, however, was part of a training scenario held here during Vigilant Guard 2010.

It gave members of the 212th RS another chance to hone their specialized rescue skills.

"That's the best part," said Air Force Master Sgt. Chad Moore, a technical rescue technician with the unit. "It helps to keep us proficient in our confined spaced skills, so if this were a real incident, we're better prepared to respond to it."

As part of the Vigilant Guard exercise, the squadron members are working with the Anchorage Fire Department and other local first responders. This has its own set of challenges, such as communication.

The exercise gives Guardmembers a chance to build a greater working relationship with those local first responders, said Moore.

"We're all after the same goal," he said. "It just takes coordination, that's all it is. They have their team leaders and we have ours. Everyone wants to do the same thing; you just need to make sure that all the assets aren't going to one location."

Working with several agencies is exactly what would happen should an earthquake or other disaster hit Alaska, said Moore.

"… we don't have vast resources [within one agency in Alaska]," he said. "That's why you see a multi-agency thing here. You have to pool your assets and go from there."

Being able to respond quickly to missions around the world, whether in a training environment or a real incident, is part of the squadron's skill set.

"We just try and make all our stuff mobile," said Moore. "That's kind of where our niche is. We may not travel with a big truck and trailer, we may not have generators to carry."

But what the unit does have is the skills to get to those people who need their help.

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Members of the the 212th Rescue Squadron make their way through rubble simulating a collapsed apartment building as part of the urban search and rescue portion of the training scenario of exercise Vigilant Guard in Anchorage, Alaska, Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Vigilant Guard is an annual, disaster-based training scenario that tests the coordination of National Guard units with local, state, regional and national disaster preparedness organizations.

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Members of the 212th Rescue Squadron ready their equipment prior to responding to an urban search and rescue mission as part of the training exercise Vigilant Guard in Anchorage, Alaska, Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Vigilant Guard is an annual, disaster-based training scenario that tests the coordination of National Guard units with local, state, regional and national disaster preparedness organizations.
 
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