CAMP HALE, Colo. – Company B, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Colorado Army National Guard partnered with Lake County Search and Rescue and elements from Eagle, Summit and Larimer counties in order to conduct an interagency search and rescue exercise March 2.
Simulating a large-scale avalanche, the exercise took place at Camp Hale, 15 miles north of Leadville, Colo.
Rescue teams recovered simulated avalanche victims using beacons and K-9 rescue teams, then rendered medical care and evacuated survivors. The exercise was conducted as a simulated National Guard civil support mission during the company’s annual training period.
For two days prior to the exercise, Lake County search-and-rescue personnel instructed the Special Forces Soldiers in avalanche awareness, search techniques, low-angle rescue, casualty evacuation and other critical skills. This exercise enhanced the interoperability between the Colorado National Guard unit and state search-and-rescue agencies.
Company B’s Title 32, or state, mission is to provide all-weather ground search-and-rescue capabilities to civil authorities when requested. This training is particularly relevant due to historic avalanche conditions in Colorado resulting in eight deaths to date during the winter of 2013-14.
As stated by Mike McHargue, director of the Office of Emergency Management in Lake County, “Training with the National Guard was very beneficial and timely given the recent avalanche west of Twin Lakes, which resulted in two fatalities and three injuries.”
Due to the overall success of the exercise, McHargue went on to say, “We (Lake County) look forward to further developing the relationship with the National Guard as additional training opportunities present themselves.”
For the Special Forces Soldiers, the training went beyond preparing to assist local authorities.
According to Maj. M, commander of Company B, “This training has increased our survivability in the harsh and unpredictable conditions that Special Forces units typically encounter overseas. When we receive a mission, we must be able to respond regardless of the environment. By conducting this training in conjunction with local search and rescue, it has also increased our capability to augment local SAR missions during a large-scale avalanche event here in the Colorado.”
Flight for Life was coordinated and planned for the exercise, but was grounded due to weather.
Names of Special Forces operators are removed for operational security.