News: Nicaraguan military rescue team trains with Wisconsin Guard engineers
Story by Vaughn Larson
MADISON, Wis. - Members of a Nicaraguan humanitarian rescue unit (UHR) spent three days in Wisconsin sharing search and extraction techniques with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 273rd Engineer Company — the search and extraction component of the Wisconsin National Guard's CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosive) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP).
Capt. Peter Owen, 273rd commander, was pleased with the joint training event, part of the State Partnership Program Wisconsin enjoys with Nicaragua.
"Our guys were able to interact with the Nicaraguans, learn some of their techniques for search and rescue while we shared some of the ways we excelled in our exercises," Owen said. "There are a lot of different ways to conduct search and rescue, so it’s important we take every opportunity to learn in the event we are called to serve in Wisconsin or another state."
The six Nicaraguans and five Wisconsin National Guardsmen — Owen, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Macglashin, Sgt. David Williams, Spc. Josh Mezyk and Honduran native Sgt. Will Valladares — trained on shoring collapsed structures, using ropes for extractions, and waterborne rope rescue. Those skills were applied to the practical exercise, a scenario calling for rescuing four victims from two earthquake-damaged buildings and a collapsed parking structure.
Owen noted that the 273rd Engineer Company was experienced on more equipment than their Nicaraguan counterparts, but any advantage that experience might bring evaporates in a constrained environment such as a collapsed structure.
"I thought they were very technically sound," Owen said. "I'd put them on par with many other units as far as search and rescue extraction skills. It was great to see their level of pride and esprit de corps, and the techniques they use during real-life missions."
Capt. Turman Selgado, officer in charge of the Nicaraguan UHR, was also pleased with the exchange.
"Each of the exercises performed were very productive," he wrote in a letter to Owen. "We learned new ways and methods … the command of my unit is very happy with this exercise [and] feels that we are creating strengths for the support of the population [of Nicaragua]."
Selgado thanked the Wisconsin National Guard leadership for the joint training opportunity, adding that he hoped this "is not the only training" with Wisconsin.
Owen said that the Nicaraguan UHR squeezed every possible training moment from the "rock pile" — the collapsed structure training site — at Volk Field. The two units teamed up to build a shoring structure that could bear up to 13,000 pounds.
"Everybody learned something," Owen said. "Everybody came away with a positive experience and learned new techniques."