By Jeremy Stark, Pfc., 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard
STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Over the past five months, 34 service members of the Texas State Guard have been participating in Search and Rescue (SAR) training to become the newest additions to the SAR mission-ready roster. During the May 2022 training weekend, candidates of the 22-01 SAR and Del Rio classes participated in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training as a final hurdle before becoming SARTECH II certified by the highly respected National Association for Search and Rescue.
Going through the SAR training program is no simple task, and the final Texas State Guard WFA training weekend was no exception. To ensure candidates are well-rounded and well-equipped to handle some of the most challenging medical conditions service members come across, instructors Capt. Richard Bruner and Sgt. Jennifer Lee of Dallas, both members of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Texas State Guard, demonstrated the improvised use of first aid equipment, instructed soldiers in wildlife identification (snakes, spiders, etc.), and led courses on how to deal with potential allergies and anaphylaxis (shock) in the field, in addition to standard first aid topics. The training was mentally and physically demanding.
Candidates were evaluated on their knowledge of first aid skills which are used in caring for an ill or injured person in a remote environment where care by a physician in a controlled setting or transportation is not readily available (being an hour or more away from advanced care is a common real-world scenario for many SAR missions). Soldiers also had to demonstrate proficiency in various other topics including scene safety, proper use of personal protective equipment, triage/patient assessment, and prioritizing treatment as well as team dynamics.
“It is extremely important for team leaders to be able to guide their team members in specific jobs to best provide care for, triage and package, then potentially transport individuals who are lost and found in a wilderness setting,” said 1st Brigade Staff Sgt. Christopher Parrish, of McKinney, one of the SAR instructors. “All these things must happen simultaneously, fluidly, and efficiently to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved and conclude a successful mission.”
During WFA training, soldiers gained knowledge and skills necessary to provide first aid and medical care in an austere environment where they may not have access to the same resources often taken for granted in an urban environment.
Although troops have completed the SAR course and are now set to become SARTECH II certified, soldiers know this is just a ‘next step’; since mission readiness is a watchword in the Texas State Guard, training is an ongoing process for every Guard member. Just as their instructors become experts in the field by participating in SAR missions over many years and in many different environments and situations, the new skills these candidates have learned will serve as a platform on which to build as they continue their journey as citizen-soldiers, fellow Texans serving Texas.
Intensive and professional emergency training is a primary aspect of the commitment the men and women of the Texas State Guard sign up for when they swear in, no matter what area or mission they may be assigned to. For more than 80 years, soldiers wearing the uniform of the Texas State Guard have responded to weather disasters including tornadoes and hurricanes, civil disturbances, and Search and Rescue operations (including the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster), and much more.
“My goal in the State Guard is to be the best version of me that I can be by pushing myself in areas that not only would make me stand out but would provide me with the tools necessary to be most effective,” said Pfc. Chad Scott of the 6th Brigade, one of the SAR graduates. “One way to achieve that is by training in the specialized areas that will maximize my potential, such as SAR.” Many service members find training opportunities such as the SAR course to be a uniquely rewarding part of their service in the Guard, being also applicable to personal and professional life as they prepare to answer the call to support civil authorities during emergencies statewide.
The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. While many persons with previous federal military service are members of the Texas State Guard, prior military experience is not required. However, a willingness to serve others, to continually train and meet the high standards of the Texas State Guard is essential. A full range of benefits, opportunities, and recruitment contacts can be found online at tmd.texas.gov under the “State Guard” tab.