News: First responders train in multivenue exercise
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lowry
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Approximately 200 first responders descended onto the Indiana University campus to refine their search, rescue, extraction and teamwork skills during a three-day exercise that started Tuesday at three collapsed buildings that will later be demolished.
The United Front Exercise II brought together more than a half-dozen different organizations: National Guard Bureau, U.S. Marines, Israel Home Front Command, Indiana National Guard, Indiana Task Force 1, Bloomington Fire Department, and Indiana University Emergency Management.
"Our soldiers and airmen learn so much from the Israelis, who are among the best of the best in the world at search and extraction," said Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, the Indiana National Guard adjutant general. "The citizens of our state expect a quick response. This gives us an opportunity to scrimmage."
Indiana National Guard members honed their search and extraction techniques as they also tested their interoperability alongside the international, national, state, local, and university emergency response teams.
The exercise allowed all groups to learn from one another.
"We learn from this exercise a lot, about American techniques and systems." said Israel Home Front Command leader Maj. Gen. Eyal Eizenberg.
Israel's Home Front Command is similar to the U.S. National Guard. The Indiana National Guard and the Home Front Command also worked together in 2010 for the Haiti earthquake relief efforts, and in Israel in 2012 for United Front Exercise I.
"Everybody wants to be here, it's the right attitude," said Lt. Col. Pat Thibodeau, the operations officer for the Indiana National Guard's 81st Troop Command. "It's a demanding exercise, it's hard work being in these buildings - long hours, longs days. But they're engaged, they want to do it, they want to learn and they want to grow."
One of those soldiers who saw growth and learning was Sgt. Crystal Stultz, a reconnaissance squad leader for the Indiana's National Guard's disaster response team.
"I love the community, the feeling of teamwork that we can all grow together and gain this experience," said Stultz. "So that when we're actually out there doing this for a real disaster we will feel comfortable with one another and we can rely on each other."
As the Indiana general said, scrimmaging. Getting ready to get ready.