Ciales, Puerto Rico- Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico Urban Search and Rescue Team (US&RT), added a discipline to their specialized skills, by participating in a water rescue training, Sept. 7-11, at several locations around the island.
The Soldiers conducted the flooding rescue training session, at the Manati River.
“The group is very good and the training sessions provide a complete experience when we are in the field carrying out the practical training,” said Spc. Elias De Jesus, from the 448th Engineer Battalion.
Due to the nature of their mission, rescuers are constantly exposed to a variety of unknown risks, especially in a water environment where the visibility is significantly reduced.
“We are the safe-guards of the rafts, following the guidelines of the raft commander; we manipulate the lines so that it moves from one side to the other safely,” said Sgt. Hector Burgos, from the 1st Battalion, 389th Regiment, while referring to the implementation of rafts during the drill.
The water training expand the capabilities of the only federal Army search and rescue team of the Caribbean.
“Now we have a trained group with all eight search and rescue disciplines, to include ropes, confine spaces, trenches, vehicle extraction, collapsed structures, decontamination, shoring, and now water rescue,” said Maj. Ruben Abreu, Search and Rescue Officer in charge.
The US&RT training is part of the larger training strategy for the largest federal U.S. Army command in the Caribbean.
“This training shows that we are always aggressively working in our level of readiness across the board. The training never stops,” said Col. Javier Rivera, the command’s Defense Support to Civil Authorities Officer in charge.
The water rescue training takes a special relevance because there are frequent floods around the island, even without the threat of a hurricane.
“There are floods almost every week. There are a lot of water rescues taking place on the island around the year,” added Rivera.
As the largest federal Army force in the Caribbean, Title 10 USC Section 12304a authorizes the Army Reserve to provide disaster assistance to a major natural disaster or emergency in the United States at the request of the governor of a state or territory.
“Water training is critical. Now more than ever, our men and women in uniform stand ready to support lead agencies for domestic emergencies and disaster relief efforts, under our Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission,” said Rivera.