News: N.D. flood fighters train to react quickly to emergencies of a different kind
Story by Spc. Joshua Dodds
By Sgt. Jesica Geffre
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- North Dakota National Guard Soldiers got pretty good at jumping at a moment's notice to emergencies during spring flooding that affected the entire state earlier this year.
Now, many of those Soldiers are putting those quick reaction skills to a bit of a different test, working with Guard members from other states and Soldiers from other countries, in Kosovo.
Recently, members of the 213st Maneuver Task Force, based in Valley City, N.D., and a Ground Ambulance team of medics from North Dakota took part in Quick Reaction Force training as part of their peacekeeping mission with KFOR 12 (Kosovo Forces), Multi-National Task Force-East.
One big challenge came in the form of a simulate "downed aircraft." The Downed Aircraft Recovery Team, comprising Soldiers from the 231st MTF, was sent out with Task Force Aviation to provide protection and assistance.
"The platoon must be at the ready and able to respond to different problems," said Staff Sgt. Joel P. O'Neil, of West Fargo, N.D., a squad leader for the 231st MTF. "A DART mission is one of those that we have to be prepared for."
O'Neil said the job of the QRF is to respond on short notice, and exercises like this help Soldiers be prepared to respond to a situation in an environment that they have not been exposed to prior to being in Kosovo.
In March and May, members of the 231st and thousands of other North Dakota and Minnesota Soldiers battled floodwaters from rapid spring snowmelt and rising rivers. Valley City, the 231st home base was one of the city's that took the brunt of Mother Nature's wrath.
Though there were several air-support and rescue missions flown by the Guard during the flooding, most Soldiers spent their time sandbagging and patrolling dike lines.
O'Neil said QRF exercises like the one here in Kosovo offer Soldiers important training opportunities they don't often get back home.
"There has not been a lot of opportunity to do real-world lifts with helicopters so anything we can do to get in the aircraft is good training."
Two medical personnel from KFOR 11, Spc. Chris G. Zapata and Spc. Max Cameron, both of whom had been in Kosovo since February, participated in the event to give guidance to the new KFOR 12 crew.
"We were able to give them advice on specifics such as the importance of noise control so that information can be disseminated effectively," said Zapata. "As well as knowing when to
use the classification of mass casualty, this is when your casualty count exceeds 50 percent of your available resources."
"[Task Force Med Falcon] are going to be just fine," said Cameron. "They have an energetic team that is eager to perfect their job skills."
Another phase of the training involved another simulated vehicle rollover, this time with KFOR 11 limiting their involvement to let KFOR 12 experience being in charge.
"We pretty much took the reins from KFOR 11," said Sgt. Lance P. Good, of Bismarck, N.D., non-commissioned officer in charge of the ground ambulance. "They were able to step back and let us run the mission."
"Of course you are always going to experience a few glitches between someone who is just coming in and someone who has been here for nine months, but this training helps us work all those out." Good said.
Good said the training went very well and was very practical.
"Given the experiences of past KFOR missions, the possibility of us having to react to a rollover or a vehicle accident of some kind is pretty realistic," Good said. "If something really would happen, hopefully it doesn't, but if does we are prepared for anything."