BOISE AIR TERMINAL AIR GUARD STATION, ID
Story by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
CASCADE, Idaho – Envision a scenario where the crash of an avalanche has left several people missing, or you are skiing in the mountains and lose sight of your buddy. Visualize it’s you that is lost off-trail, hoping to be rescued, waiting for the sound of helicopter blades pulsating in the air or the sound of voices ahead. This is the mission of search and rescue teams – to find you.
In an effort to begin rescue missions with civilian and state entities, Idaho’s 124th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) conducted its first-ever training event that involved approximately 70 civilians from local rescue teams in Cascade, Idaho, March 1-4, 2018. The goal for this integrated training was to take the skills used in the federal mission and apply those capabilities for the Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA).
“I feel like we are moving into a domestic operations concept. We’ve been at war for a long time, we’ve been deploying for a long time, we want to enlarge our footprint,” said 1st Lt. Jason Waites, 124th ASOS, officer in charge of operations. “We want to roll into the DSCA and establish the ASOS as a state entity.”
The Idaho Air National Guard’s ASOS, specifically the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airmen, have endured intense physical, mental and technical training. They are experienced in extensive outdoor training, survival skills, Rough Terrain Evacuation Course, Wilderness First Responder training, and mountain warfare. Additionally, they have the equipment available for helping with search and rescue missions.
“This training for us is like a proof of concept that we will be able to advertise our capabilities to the state, that this is what we have the ability to do. When that emergency goes out, we can come to help. TACPs from neighboring states have pre-packaged communications systems set up and have helped with mudslides and fires because of the night vision and thermal capability of finding people in the dark,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Furman, chief enlisted manager of ASOS. “These other states have coordinated helicopter landing zones, helped with post hurricane and flood response already. Although we haven’t been called upon yet, we just want to make sure we are ready for when the call comes.”
The goal of this joint engagement was to work alongside civilian authorities during avalanche rescue training, snowmobile training, sling load training, and stretcher hoist rescue training, along with the Idaho Army National Guard 1-183rd Aviation Battalion’s UH-72 Lakota Rescue Helicopter.
“We weren’t really aware, until today, how accessible you guys [ASOS] were,” said Dan Corsberg, Garden Valley Fire Department. “To know it could be an hour, hour and a half, for you guys to be on scene. That really does change the equation for us, a lot. That has been the biggest take-away for us with this training.”
Local civilian search and rescue teams present for this joint training included: the McCall Police Department, McCall Fire Department, Cascade Fire Department, Donnelly Fire Department, Garden Valley Fire Department, Valley County Search and Rescue, Valley County Sheriff’s Office, Boise County Sheriff’s Office, Adams County Sheriff’s Offices, Bogus Basin Ski Patrol, Brundage Ski Patrol, Tamarack Ski Patrol, Idaho Fish and Game, and the U.S. Forest Service.
The training was focused on everything from search and rescue, to command and control, to effectively testing communications. When it comes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are Emergency Support Functions (ESF). ESF number nine is search and rescue related, and ESF number two is communications. This exercise effectively tested command and control with air-to-ground and ground-to-ground communications.
“These guys know what they are doing, and it’s been great. We are all learning from each other. This is an incredible opportunity,” said Jim Pace, Valley County Search and Rescue.