PEMBROKE, N.H. --
To the astonishment of State Command Sgt. Maj. William Ferland, more than half of the 70 New Hampshire guardsmen who said they were interested in forming a volunteer search and rescue team reported to the first training session May 7 at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke.
“It’s a promising start,” said Ferland, who drafted the invite for the all-NHNG force after learning of a long-running gap in coverage of the state's southern tier. “I thought this would be a natural fit for us.”
Forty-six citizen-soldiers and airmen joined officials from New Hampshire Fish and Game, the state’s lead search and rescue agency, and the Upper Valley Wilderness Rescue Team for a day of familiarization and hands-on exercises at the ECTC and surrounding wooded area.
The training included use of Global Positioning Systems or GPS, and setting up hasty line searches.
“My background is in nursing, but I’m excited to learn new skills and do more volunteer work,” said 2nd Lt. Dayhna Marti-Ojeda of the NHARNG Medical Detachment. “I’m used to volunteering, even during nursing school and through my free time.”
New Hampshire Fish and Game responds to an average of 190 search and rescue calls annually, said Lt. Jim Kneeland, a conservation officer for district three. About 20 of those occur south of the Lakes Region. There are nine volunteer search and rescue groups in the Granite State. All of them are located in the White Mountains.
“Having teams closer to (these calls) will save a great deal of valuable time,” Kneeland said. “We put a tremendous strain on these existing groups. They even pay for their own gas.”
Much of the necessary training for search and rescue operations are considered basic tasks for guardsmen and women.
“Land navigation, medical tasks, even litter carries, all supplement our required training,” Ferland said. “Also, having fit service members, so the rescuers don’t need to be rescued, is vital. This will help push our soldiers and airmen to stay in top physical shape, which has obvious benefits beyond this team.”
--compiled by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Frost, 603rd PAD NCOIC