Wisconsin Guard, civilian partners practice crisis response

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anya Hanson
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and Soldiers of the Wisconsin Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package conducted a combined training event at the Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, May 14, 2022.

The Wisconsin National Guard CERF-P partnered with 104th Aviation Unit out of Madison, Wisconsin, as well as the Southern Waukesha County Canine Search and Rescue, and ThedaStar Air Medical services from Neenah, Wisconsin. The various military and civilian groups worked together during this event to train for specific crisis scenarios in which the guard would need to work directly with civilian entities.

Master Sgt. Nathan Sullivan, a medical observer-controller-trainer (OCT) for the 115th FW and liaison for the Wisconsin CERF-P, is responsible for helping to facilitate the exercise and integrate the medical element with army aviation, ThedaStar, and the canine search and rescue team.

“Today is really unique because our medical element is getting to transport patients out of their tents via helicopter and actually practice the movement of patients in and out of our treatment facility,” said Sullivan. “Our search and extraction teams are down range getting to hoist people out of trapped areas onto the helicopters in conjunction with that. So we get to practice a little bit more real world than we otherwise would have.”

Sullivan stressed the importance of providing training for guardsmen which includes civilian partners that they would likely need to collaborate with if a natural disaster or other crisis were to occur.

“It’s a really great opportunity to work with civilian partners,” said Sullivan, “Something that we found out more during the pandemic is that we don’t work alone when it comes to real life. When the real chaos happens, this training will make it less chaotic.”

During the exercise, guardsmen were trained and tested on their ability to perform medical tasks like setting up a field medical site, treating casualties, and loading casualties onto both Blackhawks and a civilian medical helicopter. Guardsmen also took part in elements of search and rescue like extracting casualties from elevator shafts, hoisting casualties from the rooftops of several story buildings, as well as working with civilian K-9 search and rescue handlers to locate casualties.

Phil Buchholz, search and rescue chief and owner of Southern Waukesha County Canine Search and Rescue, expressed the importance of guard members working with K-9 units to not only find casualties, but to better assist casualties who are differently abled. Buchholz has multiple autistic family members and understands how overwhelming a seemingly normal situation can be for them, let alone a crisis or natural disaster.

“Some may freeze up and some can become violent because they don’t feel safe,” said Buchholtz. “That’s where the dogs come in handy, they give people that comfort and that safety. When we take a look at search and rescue environment and someone is not doing well with loud noises or overstimulating environment, the dogs will pick up on that.”

Sullivan also emphasized the importance of guard members not only being trained to work alongside a range of civilian entities in a crisis, but the importance of guard members being prepared and trained to work with and assist a range of casualties.

“It’s incredibly important for us to cater to our entire population,” said Sullivan. “Whether that be children, the elderly, or people who are disabled mentally or physically.”