Don’t you just love that behind-the-scenes video? VA-TF1 on a mission

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I’ll admit it. My favorite kind of stuff to watch is the stuff I’m not supposed to see. Those DVD extras, when the Director talks about what went wrong during filming, and behind the scenes video. This is the latter. Virginia Task Force 1 is an elite team of men and women who perform urban search and rescue missions around the country. They are one of only 2 groups in the country that do this. They save lives.

Photojournalist Kurt Brooks and I are embedded with them this week. What that means is when they sleep, we sleep; when they eat, we eat; when they get up to go on a 12 hour rescue mission, we go too.

That means cots, MREs and stylish steel toe shoes. They arrived at the base at Guardian Centers in Perry, Georgia, and immediately half went on a rescue mission at a simulated-but-oh-so-real parking garage collapse, and the other half set up the BOO. BOO stands for base of operations. It consists of several tents for sleeping and for a command center. It also means setting up the bathroom, which consists of porta-potties, and 2 sinks to splash water on your face, and brush teeth at. The first night, water wasn’t set up, so I splashed bottled water on my face and went to bed.

The best thing about these men and women is they are the nicest, friendliest, hard-working people I’ve ever met. I felt at home right away, and they were so accommodating. Maybe they viewed me with the same curiosity that I viewed them with, I don’t know. But they made me feel right at home. There is even coffee in our tent! And on the coldest, windiest night, they set up heaters in the sleeping portion of our tent. One rescuer named Mike (there are several) gave me a “bath in a bag.” Yes, it’s tough to find time or space to shower here.

I’ve been told that there are several MREs you should select first in the hierarchy of MREs, including the spicy penne pasta and the tuna. There is also a breakfast MRE that goes pretty quickly that consists of maple sausage. I have yet to see that one yet, but I do have a day and a half to go.

For a peek at the BOO, watch this behind-the-scenes-video here.

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