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Press Release
March 10, 2007
Oregon Army National Guard trains with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Firefighters
Story and photos by Capt. Michael S. Braibish, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs

NOTE: Photos were distributed in earlier releases

Sixty soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard learned fundamental firefighting and rescue techniques from the experts at the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Training Center. Under the keen watch of experienced first responders the soldiers spent Mar. 10, the first of two training days, developing skills that will prove valuable in the aftermath of a disaster.

The training proved educational for the soldiers, teaching them how they can enhance the capabilities of those first on the scene.

"What I really gained is an understanding of how we're going to work jointly in a mass casualty setting," said Sgt. Thomas Pettit of Goldendale, Wash., "especially how our forces are going to cooperate and work together as a joint task force, where we're going to fit into the division of labor and be most valuable and work as a team."

As they learned the fundamental skills of firefighting and rescue operations, they also had the chance to gain practical experience.

"I had some theories on how to do some stuff but here you're actually getting a little practical on it, so when it comes down to it you have an idea of what you're going to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Courtaintharp of Estacada, Ore.

The training not only builds skills, it brings familiarity to the firefighters and soldiers. Perhaps more importantly it builds trust, an essential element in a cohesive response to a disaster whether it's natural or manmade.

"It gives us a little more understanding of the relationship between our side and the civilian side," said Courtaintharp. "So now we have an idea of where we can cross over a little bit. We get information from both sides and we can work a little closer together, a little more smoothly.

That trust and experience is appreciated by the first responders as well.

"When I see these guys on a call, if we do have something major that comes down, I know they know how to do this," said engineer Jeff Mather of TVFR. "I know they have got at least a general idea and they can take care of a little car fire, they can help me with the hose if we're on a house fire and were a little shorthanded."

The idea for training soldiers with first responders was born out of frustration some of the Guard members experienced in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Cutshall, who is also a seasoned firefighter from Eugene, deployed to New Orleans with the 141st BSB in September of 2005. While there, Cutshall said, he and fellow soldiers felt some frustration at not being able to help the first responders as much as they hoped to. He and fellow soldier 2nd Lt. William Croker, who is also a firefighter, worked with the TVFR to coordinate the training.

Their goal was to make sure the Oregon National Guard expanded their ability to serve with first responders. Pvt. Josh Meng, a soldier from Sandy, is optimistic this training accomplished that goal.

"We're learning how to work with the civilian side, the civilian sector. Hopefully that will enable us to help out the populations around us a lot faster," said Meng.
Contact Info:
Capt. Mike Braibish