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Vigilant Guard: Colorado National Guard kicks off training exercise 
By Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, Joint Task Force-Centennial Public Affairs 
search and rescue 
El Paso County Search and Rescue K-9 Tucker watches as the Colorado National Guard CH-47 Chinook he is in takes off for an exercise search and rescue mission at the U.S. Air Force Academy during a Vigilant Guard exercise scenario, July 22, 2013. The Vigilant Guard exercise is a weeklong exercise full of scenarios based on wildfires, tornadoes, air craft accidents, hazmat response, search and rescue, triage, medevac and other emergency-response measures. The training and experience gained from this exercise will provide the Colorado National Guard and supporting military units an opportunity to improve cooperation and operational relationships with their local, state, private sector, non-governmental organizations and federal partners. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf/RELEASED)

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado National Guard members and fire rescue teams, as well as the Douglas County Incident Management Team and the El Paso County Search and Rescue Team, kicked off a major training exercise July 22 by responding to a simulated downed aircraft.

Vigilant Guard, as the exercise was named, has been in the planning stages since 2011 and was kicked off in the still-dark hours of the morning by a scenario involving a mock plane crash in the midst of a wildfire.

Colorado Army National Guard helicopters inserted military and civilian first responders and K-9s into a remote location approximately five miles from the wreckage. The interagency responders hiked to the crash site and provided medical treatment to moulaged patients.

Patients were then transported via Colorado National Guard Humvee ambulances to a simulated hospital on Fort Carson.

“This is invaluable training,” said Lt. Chad Edwards, the El Paso County Search and Rescue team’s lead coordinator. Edwards added that working alongside other agencies – military and civilian alike – is always a great training opportunity.

The mission was to locate the aircraft, provide on-scene medical care to the dozens of “injured” role players and rapidly transport them to the nearest military medical facility. Together, the agencies combed the area, searched the perimeter of the crash site and provided aid to survivors.

Additionally as part of the exercise, K-9 units were sent out with the search and rescue teams to search for the simulated injured players.

“It’s always great to work with the dogs because they are more sensitive to everything that is going on, and they can drive us in the right direction – as long as you trust the dog,” Edwards said.

Edwards also emphasized the importance of using these training events to get used to working with and becoming familiar with other agencies.

“You don’t want to swap business cards at a real incident. Now is the time to get to know names and faces,” he added.