By 4th Civil Affairs Regiment Public Affairs
Texas State Guard
MINERAL WELLS, Texas- “Team leader, look what the terrain is doing to your formation,” said Staff Sgt. Joe Ringnald, platoon sergeant and certified Ground Search and Recovery (GSAR) trainer as he coached a team leader maneuvering a 12-member team through heavy terrain. “Look how that thick foliage to your right is driving your entire team to the left.”
The GSAR drill was an element of a 4th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard field training exercise at Fort Wolters Training Center, in Mineral Wells, in July. The TXSG contains a total of six GSAR Mission Ready Packages (MRP) for deployment across the state.
To kick off the exercise, Regimental Operations alerted the GSAR team to assemble and move to a nearby remote community where recent storms and flooding had resulted in several missing persons.
“In this scenario, we knew based on the operations briefing we were looking for remains. The Soldiers conducted a deliberate search pattern focused on terrain where experience has taught us remains were likely to be found,” said Warrant Officer Jack Snow, GSAR operations officer.
In the Fort Wolters mission, the GSAR team conducted two training iterations. In a daylight scenario, the team conducted a wide-area search resulting in the location of simulated human remains. The team then reset and conducted a night operation, successfully locating a simulated lost child. The night search was the most advanced and challenging mission the unit has undertaken to date.
“Guardsmen from this team have deployed on a number of real-world GSAR missions,” said Snow. “Our goal here is to share their knowledge and experience and to make the training more challenging and under more difficult conditions to ensure we can successfully execute out in those real-world scenarios.”
“Demanding training like this is all about confidence. When lives are on the line we don’t want soldiers doubting themselves, their leaders or their teams,” he added.
To maximize the training value, the team rotated several Soldiers through the planning and leading roles.
“The mission of the 4th Regiment is to provide task-organized mission ready teams to support civil emergency management authorities principally in the disaster response domain,” said Col. Robert Hastings, 4th Regiment commander, Texas State Guard. “We train to conduct mass shelter operations, emergency tracking network operations, search and recovery and to augment civil emergency operations centers. The mission ready MRP is the end-state. There are a number of enabling skills that are important – such as land navigation, first aid and radio operations, but the ‘magic sauce’ that brings it all together is teamwork and leadership, and that’s really the focus of our annual training plan and field exercises like this one.”
Texas State Guard GSAR teams are validated and certified by other state agencies.