CHARLESTON, W.V. - West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) Soldiers joined the Charleston Fire Department (CFD) search and extraction team Friday, June 8, at a Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) property in the midst of being demolished for a real-life scenario-training event.

WVNG Joint Interagency Training and Education Center (JITEC) Search and Rescue instructors joined the fire fighters to sharpen their skills as instructors and bring their training experiences back to the Guard, according to 1st Lt. Dwight Siemiaczko, JITEC Technical Rescue Course officer.

The CFD and WVNG have a close working relationship, Siemiaczko said, so when the fire department was approached by CAMC about using the building demo for training, the National Guard was invited along.

"This area has always been one to work together on," said CFD Capt. Les Smith, Task Force Commander. "In case of a catastrophe, no one agency will work alone. We've learned that time and time again. So intermingling the interoperability works for the benefit of the community."

On Thursday, a building was demolished around two mannequins meant to represent a scenario where a gas leak exploded and two fire fighters were caught beneath the rubble. The team was responsible for extracting the mannequins in a safe and timely manner using structure collapse extracting techniques.

"Several areas in a structure collapse which we are focusing on are lifting and moving heavy objects," said Siemiaczko. "(They) are also shoring debris, cutting concrete, moving concrete, moving steel, and cutting those components to get to the casualties."

Every National Guard soldier in the United States that goes through search and rescue or search and extraction does so at the Extraction One course at Camp Dawson, where the JITEC instructors teach. While the instructors get a lot of classroom time, this was a great opportunity to come out in the field and do real world training with civilian responders to learn new techniques and procedures that can be brought back to the Guard, Siemiaczko stated.

"We really appreciate this partnership and thought this was a great way to keep building on that," said John Pennington, Facilities Management Administrator at CAMC. "We always have to think about some kind of disaster in the area and are glad to be able to support those who would be those first responders."

The WVNG JITEC is the National Guard Bureau's lead for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosives (CBRNE) and Critical Infrastructure Protection training. They are an active National Guard unit supporting training and education utilizing a cadre of military and civilian subject matter experts to homeland defense and civil support activities in the state of West Virginia and throughout the nation.