ATTTEN-tion! Avalanche Training is Underway!
Earlier this month, March 2, an interagency search and rescue exercise was conducted at Camp Hale, 15 miles north of Leadville.
The fierce weather added to the intensity of the training, as the participants conducted an exercise that simulated a large-scale avalanche. Representatives from the Company B, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Colorado Army National Guard partnered with Lake County Search and Rescue and elements from Eagle, Summit and Larimer counties.
Rescue teams recovered “pretend” avalanche victims using beacons and K-9 rescue teams, then rendered medical care and evacuated survivors. The exercise was conducted as a simulated National Guard civil support mission during the company’s annual training period.
“Training with the National Guard was very beneficial and timely given the recent avalanche west of Twin Lakes, which resulted in two fatalities and three injuries,” stated Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue.
For two days prior to the March 2 exercise, Lake County Search-and-Rescue personnel instructed the Special Forces Soldiers in avalanche awareness, search techniques, low-angle rescue, casualty evacuation and other critical skills. This exercise enhanced the inter-operability between the Colorado National Guard unit and state search and rescue agencies. But for the Special Forces Soldiers, the training went beyond preparing to assist local authorities.
“This training has increased our survivability in the harsh and unpredictable conditions that Special Forces units typically encounter overseas. When we receive a mission, we must be able to respond regardless of the environment,” stated Major M (the names of Special Forces operators were removed for operational security), commander of Company B. “By conducting this training in conjunction with local search and rescue, it has also increased our capability to augment local search-and-rescue during a large-scale avalanche event here in the Colorado, as well.”
Company B’s Title 32, Colorado-based mission is to provide all-weather ground search-and-rescue capabilities to civil authorizes when requested. This training is particularly relevant due to historic avalanche conditions in Colorado resulting in eight deaths to date during the winter of 2013-2014.