Army Reserve Soldiers put their lifesaving skills to the test in the heart of Manhattan, July 9–11, enhancing cooperation with civil authorities.
Soldiers from the 486th Engineer Detachment (Firefighting Headquarters) and the 328th Combat Support Hospital teamed up with federal and local agencies to perform key tasks and
improve coordination during search and rescue and mass decontamination operations.
The Army Reserve has a key role to play in federal response plans—augmenting first responders and speeding up recovery efforts under a variety of environmental conditions.
“What makes us unique is that we can do search and rescue in a contaminated environment,” said Capt. Samuel Turner, commander of the response unit. “If there was an attack, the New York Fire Department would be the first to respond, but at the point they can no longer sustain operations, they would request federal assistance, and at that point, we would come in to support.”
Training missions like these in downtown Manhattan provide local and federal elements opportunities to prepare and coordinate.
“If we don’t build the relationships now, we won’t be ready on the day of the incident,” said New York Fire Department Lt. Paul Dulisse. “On a mid- to large-scale protracted incident, it’s realistic we’ll be working with multiple layers of government. We may initially work with the National Guard, but after 48 hours, it’s realistic that these Army Reserve assets would be deployed, useful and critical.”
Turner said that his unit supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency by providing manpower, vehicles and equipment to perform medical services, as well as chemical, biological and radiological clean up. This manpower and equipment would be in high demand in the event of a disaster or attack. The deployment of the Army Reserve would allow for relief in place of current operations, allowing first responders time to regroup.
The unit is made up of several teams composed of both Army firefighters and medics. These Soldiers train together and would go into any situation as a team to provide the greatest possible lifesaving capability on site. This includes search and rescue tools like the “Jaws of Life” and trained medical professionals who begin lifesaving procedures as quickly as possible.
“If there was an attack, the New York Fire Department would be the first to respond, but at the point they can no longer sustain operations… we would come in to support.”
— Capt. Samuel Turner, 486th Engineer Detachment
“If we don’t build the relationships now, we won’t be ready on the day of the incident.”
— Lt. Paul Dulisse, New York city Fire Department
Staff Sgt. Damon Schersten, an Army Reserve firefighter, said the training not only helps build skills, but also establishes rapport between federal and civil authorities.
“This training gives us an idea of the equipment and terminology the New York Fire Department uses,” Schersten said. “Even if we didn’t respond together in New York City we may meet up in Albany, a region with less robust response elements. Already having a working relationship with them is invaluable to ensuring we perform the mission quickly.”
As with most preventative measures, Soldiers understand the necessity to be ready for worst case scenarios.
“We all want to do our jobs to the highest standard,” said Spc. Jason Delgado, 328th Combat Support Hospital, “at the same time, we hope we never have to do our jobs.”
Delgado said that he’s been on the response team for nearly two years now. Another group of Army Reserve Soldiers was identified to take over the mission.
“Being a part of this mission means spending a lot of days training throughout the year, all over the country, to stay ready,” said Delgado. “It’s a challenge spending around 100 days a year away from home, but having families and employers to support us, so that we can be ready, makes a big difference.”