On A Secret Mission – Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

For the next 3 days and nights, I will be embedded with Virginia Task Force 1, one of the most elite search and rescue crews in the world. They’ll be training on a series of unbelievably realistic simulated disasters. I can only tell you about today’s training, because they don’t want the crew to know what comes next.

A parking garage collapses in Canada. More than a dozen people are trapped. Slabs of concrete smashed upon cars, rubble everywhere you look. This is the mission of VA-TF1. To get everyone out. Dogs sniff out victims. Team members navigate the rubble and glass-sprinkled terrain, and pull out a live victim. Did I mention that volunteers, students and actors are strewn about the place as “victims” to make this rescue mission as realistic as possible.

This place that the crew has come to is called Guardian Centers and it’s located in Perry, Georgia. The crew has pitched tents to sleep in just like they would at a real disaster.

Photojournalist Kurt Brooks and I will be embedded with them. I hear our next training exercise is set to start at 3 am. I haven’t seen my “accommodations” yet but I hear a cot is involved and it’s chilly here tonight. I’ve already eaten a bag of turkey jerky and that may be the best meal I get until we get back to civilization late Thursday.

It’s important that this is realistic as possible so we get a real taste of what these men and women go through. My hard hat is off to them, because it’s almost 9pm and we’ve been going for about 14 hours already, and they’re still going, while we are holed up in our rental car editing a story for 11pm. It’s pretty cool.

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