Light urban search and rescue technicians train in Massachusetts

News Article / December 10, 2018

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By Captain David Campbell

Light Urban Search and Rescue (LUSAR) technicians deployed to Northfield, Massachusetts, to participate in Exercise Vigilant Guard, held from November 5 to 8, 2018, with the Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MA-TF1). The exercise was part of a broad deployment involving United States military forces, civilian agencies, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The technicians are technical search specialists and structural collapse technicians trained by MA-TF1 at the exceptional training grounds in Beverly, Massachusetts.

The Canadian component comprised 11 members from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, and 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia. They are, from 8 Wing, Captain David Campbell, Sergeant Aaron Myers, Master Corporal Ryan Cummings, Corporal Grant Finnigan, Corporal Andrew Patterson and Corporal Mark Milne, and, from 19 Wing, Corporal Brennen Smith, Corporal William Vant Erve, Corporal Jasjeet Grewal, Aviator Chad Vaneyk and Aviator Joel Rodin.

This team of dedicated individuals is part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). The DART is a rapid deploy unit, and LUSAR maintains a 24-hour notice to move. On a deployed domestic or international operation, the LUSAR team would search large areas of damaged structures for casualties, and have the capability to perform rescue in various types of structures.

Exercise Vigilant Guard

On Vigilant Guard, members conducted a wide-area search following a scenario wherein a large dam burst, creating a wave of water that caused destruction in the Berkshire East area.

The LUSAR team integrated with MA-TF1 rescuers and combed the woods for survivors. They encountered areas where large trees had fallen on people or structures.

Aided by search dogs, the teams located and rescued casualties and administered medical aid. The U.S. military provided air support in the form of four helicopters to aid in evacuation.

The exercise employed facilitating staff, contractors, and actors to ensure the most realistic training possible. The facilitating staff injected mock issues typical on a real deployment to slow progress and challenge the teams. Chain saws broke, bridges were damaged, and actors tried to alter established search patterns with passionate stories of lost loved ones or pets.

The Canadian participants practised and honed their skills on a realistic disaster scenario. These opportunities serve the Canadian Armed Forces well by ensuring that we maintain high levels of skill and proficiency in the realms where we are responsible.

Captain David Campbell is the 8 Wing Trenton fire chief.


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Social Work Officers deliver professional social work services in a military setting to support the morale, efficiency and mental health of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families. Social Work Officers offer clinical social work services similar to community mental health and social services agencies.

As well as the full range of challenges common to Canadian society, CAF members and their families cope with additional stresses associated with frequent moves and separations. These stresses can give rise to social and family circumstances that involve complex social work interventions.

The primary responsibilities of a Social Work Officer are to:

         - Provide clinical intervention services
         - Assist in the resolution of compassionate situations
         - Consult with and advise leaders on the social circumstances encountered by personnel in their units
         - Investigate and report compassionate situations
         - Deliver preventive and rehabilitative programs in the areas of:
                   - Pre- and post-deployment stress
                   - Suicide prevention
                   - Family violence

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