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NEWS | May 9, 2017

Into the Rough

By Sgt. Crystal Milton 207th Public Affairs Detachment

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 356th Engineer Detachment are among the more than 4,100 Soldiers at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) to participate in Guardian Response 2017 (GR17).

GR17 is an Army Total Force exercise where Soldiers from the active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard work in concert to respond effectively to a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) scenario including urban search and rescue victim extraction training.

“Urban search and rescue is removing victims that are trapped in collapsed buildings or trenches, or in elevated positions where they can’t get down by themselves and we have to bring them down by mechanical means,” said Patrick Morris, the head observer controller for the search and rescue exercise and the United States Army Reserve Component group supervisor here. “It takes a high degree of training to be able to conduct those technical rescues.”

A glance in any direction garners debris and clothes strewn about fields, trees, and buildings. Vandalized cars on fire and smoke billowing from intact and collapsed structures as well as a simulated neighborhood that is nearly submerged in water. Citizens from the local population with artificial wounds and dried blood affixed to various parts of their bodies are wandering Muscatatuck’s grounds. Mannequins with varying degrees of injuries are buried in rubble or trapped in towers awaiting rescue.

“This training is absolutely realistic,” said Spc. Shane Brown, a civilian and military firefighter and a crew leader here with the 356th Engineer Detachment out of Danvers, Massachusetts. “Each time we come out to do these types of training events you’re always learning something new, whether you’ve been [in the Army] for seven years or whether you’ve only been here for one week.”

At one of the rescue sites, Soldiers dressed in mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear break off into small teams to tactically extract mannequins who represent actual people in need of rescuing during this Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) training exercise.

“This exceeded my expectations with the level of training and intensity and the realism behind it,” said Brown.

Once the extraction is complete, Brown and his team rotate through a decontamination station, where they learn to execute proper MOPP gear removal. Decontamination is required after venturing into the simulated contaminated sites.

The near-to-life city of MUTC allows Soldiers to feel immersed in what a DSCA-response mission would entail.

“Muscatatuck [has] the backdrop that is so hard to provide anywhere else -- the smoke, the buildings that are collapsed, the fires -- it’s probably one of the best venues in North America for this type of training. When we train [Soldiers] it’s hard to approximate what a real rescue scene is going to be like with displaced civilians walking around looking for help and food. All of those things are very, very hard and expensive to simulate anywhere else,” said Morris.

These simulated scenarios not only allow Soldier’s to train on search and rescue, they also allow them to improve confidence in other areas as well.

“We may be experienced with scenarios that are similar, but each time it’s new,” said Brown. “Every time we go out there and practice one of our technical rescue skills, we try to rotate people in to get them experienced with hands-on rescuing, we try to rotate leadership positions -- that way everyone can understand the bigger picture behind what we’re doing.”