A downed satellite is the target of annual search-and-rescue training

A planned, statewide search-and-rescue exercise is scheduled to take place in Pocahontas County this weekend.

Bill Kershner is the Operations Planning Officer with Homeland Security/Emergency Management, and he grew up here, on Droop Mountain. He said there will be several agencies and organizations participating in the joint training mission, and anyone is welcome to come out and watch.

“We’re bringing in the National Guard CST, which is the Civil Support Team, the Civil Air Patrol, all of our state search-and-rescue groups, surrounding groups that want to attend, and we’ve invited all the local first responders, all the volunteer fire departments, EMS, anybody that wants to come that may be involved in one of these operations,” says Kershner. “Or if you just want to see how an incident command works on an operation, then you’re welcome to come by and observe or participate. We’re working with Shawn Dunbrack, which is the Homeland Security Director there in Pocahontas County, and working through him to invite all the local groups, Green Bank, Marlinton, Hillsboro, Dunmore, wherever they might be that want to come.”

Kershner said this year the exercise is going to be a little different. In years past, the scenario has focused on either downed aircraft or missing persons. This year’s mission is going to be a wide-area search that revolves around a wayward satellite in Virginia.

“That breaks up over West Virginia, and comes, the debris comes down in the Cranberry,” he says. “So what we’ll be doing is looking for debris. In other words, the search manager will give out tasks to the search leaders, the team leaders; they’re expected to work a map grid and look for any and all debris and collect it. There may be some separate exercises, or injects, as we call them, as the exercise goes. That’s things that we throw in for people to do to make command decisions and operational decisions as the exercise goes on.”

Kershner said the opportunity for an exercise like this one is invaluable.

“Pocahontas County, it is really rich in wilderness areas,” explains Kershner. “A lot of the state, parts of the state, don’t have such an area to work, and because of the nature of what we’re doing with the aircraft and the ground teams and that sort of thing, it also it gives everyone an opportunity to see what everybody else brings to the table. It’s just the way we do our real world operations for everything, whether it be a search for a person or a plane, or a mine disaster or a flood or whatever, then we all know who’s coming to help out and what we’re bringing with us.”

He said he doesn’t want AMR listeners to be alarmed if they come across any elements of the search and rescue exercise this weekend.

“If you see fixed wing aircraft or Blackhawk helicopters from the Guard, or the new Lakota helicopters from the Guard, don’t be alarmed,” he says. “It’s just and exercise that we’re doing. It may interfere with the first day of turkey season, but we planned this a long time ago.”

Story By

Angelo Jiordano

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