By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleMarch 19, 2012
LORTON, Va. (March 19, 2012) -- The 911th Engineer Company (Technical Rescue), the only combat engineering company in the Army that specializes in urban search and rescue, improved its abilities as a unit with three days of rappelling training March 7-9, at the old Lorton Prison.
Soldiers learned various rope disciplines like tying knots, ascending and descending, and rigging mechanical advantages and baskets for victims. For many of the Soldiers it was their first time utilizing any of those skills.
"Our company is trying to get these lower enlisted guys to start making decisions and building their knowledge base," said 1st Lt. Charles Robitaille, 911th Eng. Co. (Tech. Rescue), 2nd Platoon Leader. The company recently had an influx of new people which means its experienced Soldiers rotated out of the unit. "So, this is the first time any of these guys have done this stuff."
Despite having no prior experience, company members took on each task with a purpose and were not afraid to say they needed more time learning a particular discipline.
"They've done very well this week," said Staff Sgt. Damon Hunt, 911th Eng. Co. (Tech. Rescue), squad leader. "This is a very motivated crew and they are very willing to learn."
Along with learning the new disciplines, the 911th leadership wanted to see the Soldiers' new skills utilized in a safe and efficient manner, but also work together as a team to build trust and cohesion should they ever have to use these skills in a real-life emergency situation.
Safety and efficiency is important to ensure all steps are heeded to insure a rescuer does not become a victim, according to Robitaille.
If a rescuer goes down, "not only have you lost all of that forward progress, but now you have to backtrack and send another guy out," he said. "Efficiency is important, but safety helps our efficiency."
In addition to applying their new knowledge effectively in a training scenario, Soldiers could show how well they retained the information by suggesting alternate ways of doing tasks.
"I need these guys to be able to tell me, 'hey, sir this is a better idea. This is quicker, faster and safer,'" said Robitaille. "I'm all about them giving me ideas because technical rescue is really a team effort. Hopefully, we are able to built trust amongst each other."
Two members of the Morrisville, North Carolina, National Guard, 677th Eng. Detachment (Firefighting), attended the training on Friday. Spc. Byron Boyles and Staff Sgt. Tim Graf said they wanted to see the difference in the make-up between a military firefighting team and a civilian team as well as their practices.
"One of the guys up there is an (Emergency Medical Technician) who's actually going to be doing the rescuing," said Graf. "So, to see all those different jobs come together and be able to put together a rescue is really interesting. Those of us on the civilian side; we are all firefighters trained as rescuers."
By the end of the training, the Soldiers new to the 911th were applying their new disciplines to the satisfaction of senior leaders.
"They've done well," Robitaille said. "Once they got over the initial fear, it's like second nature to them."