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NEWS | May 5, 2022

Engineered response can save lives in a disaster

By Staff Sgt. Jon Soles 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The same engineering principles used to build - math, machines, and muscles - can also be used when buildings are destroyed in the event of a disaster.

Army Reserve Soldiers with the 409th Engineer Vertical Construction Company, based in Windsor, Colorado, participated in the latest iteration of Guardian Response 22. This large scale training exercise is helping Soldiers like Spc. Marc Tapparo sharpen the skills that could mean the difference between life and death for victims in the critical hours following an unforeseen catastrophe.

Tapparo is a horizontal construction engineer participating in Guardian Response 22 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana. The Sterling, Colorado, native said Guardian Response 22 is helping him add social skills to his tactical and technical knowledge as a professional and military engineer.

“Anybody can learn to tie a knot, but it takes a different set of skills to find a hurt victim and comfort them when they’ve already been in pain for three days,” said Tapparo. “Patient care comes down to social skills.”

Tapparo is employed by Colorado State University, where he also earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. While a student at Colorado State, he enlisted in the Army Reserve to help pay for school.

Inspired by his mother, who identified his talent for engineering from an early age, Tapparo is the first member of his family to go to college.

“From a young age, she said I should go into engineering because of the way I think,” he said.

The purpose of Guardian Response 22 is to help Army Reserve Soldiers gain confidence working across civil and military lines in a complex environment. Tapparo said the exercise is also helping him appreciate the human element of a disaster.

“There are many different types of injuries like crush syndrome,” he said. “The natural response to save somebody is to get them out as soon as possible, but really what you’re doing in these scenarios is preventing people from dying instantly.”

Guardian Response 22 adds a mock chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear environment to the training, forcing Soldiers to take a different approach when responding to a disaster involving collapsed structures. The realism of the exercise is enhanced by Soldiers working in bulky protective radiation suits.

“It’s difficult because we are in these suits and we want to get done with the mission, but we have to learn to slow down in a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear environment,” Tapparo said. “That’s why you don’t see us just grabbing the mock casualties from under the debris.”

Some of the same principles used in engineering, such as assessing the design of a vehicle in trench rescue before cutting into the vehicle body, are being used in Guardian Response 22 scenarios to help Soldiers increase their chances of a successful rescue. Guardian Response 22 will help Soldiers improve the readiness and proficiency of their units in the event of a true disaster.