By Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux, Virgin Islands National Guard, 51st Public Affairs DetachmentMay 16, 2017
Members of a Special Forces team conducted a search and rescue mission at Magens Bay, St. Thomas during Vigilant Guard 17-03, a large scale disaster exercise that occurred May 15 to May 19 on St. Thomas and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Special Forces team participating in the exercise usually performs such training in South America so it was a welcome change to train in a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. Another difference in this training was the scale of the disaster relief.
"We got the call that there was a large scale disaster relief effort that was needed in the Virgin Islands and we were in Puerto Rico," said a member of the team. "We were able to respond with our helicopter assets and load our boats onto the helos and was able to get in before everyone else by helo-casting into the ocean and come ashore."
The team's mission was an integral part of the scenario. If it was a real life situation, the team would be the first on the ground and would be tasked with initial scouting of the disaster area.
"Well we had to get in early to see what's going on and conduct patrols so we could send back the information to the Coast Guard and other assets that are coming in, such as what roads are accessible," said the member. "Based upon our medical capabilities we will be able to treat casualties as we find them. Also because we have aerial assets, we can use those assets to get those out that are really hurt badly."
The 5-day exercise will include other search and rescue missions, road clearing, water purification, and the transporting and care of casualties conducted by the Virgin Islands National Guard alongside other military forces in support of the territory's response agencies.
The team is set to continue to provide assistance throughout the exercise as requested.
Vigilant Guard 17-03 is a national disaster response exercise hosted by the Virgin Islands National Guard and US Northern Command.