Interagency Exercise Hones Rescue Operations

Interagency Exercise Hones Rescue Operations

By Dialogo
October 14, 2011

The largest federal interagency exercise for personnel rescue and recovery began at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and continues through October 21 with joint, coalition, interagency and international participants, and focuses on saving lives.

Colombia is also taking part. Chile, El Salvador, Peru, and Uruguay, among other countries, are observing the exercise this year. Brett Hartnett, a former Air Force combat rescue helicopter pilot who founded and manages the exercise, attributed its continued success to networking, partnerships and the “whole of government” approach to saving lives.

Hartnett noted the value of close, regular exercises with countries such as Colombia, which returned this year for its fourth Angel Thunder. “We know they’re good, we know who to contact, and we’re used to working with them,” he said.

The annual Angel Thunder exercise, sponsored by the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, is using an earthquake scenario to prepare participants for rescue and recovery missions, officials said.

This year’s exercise involves 1,400 people from U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Africa Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, officials said. Also taking part are key U.S. agencies such as the State Department, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Local participants in the network also contribute to the exercise’s success, Hartnett said. This year, two hospitals, three sheriff’s offices, a fire department and three universities are participating.

The goal of Angel Thunder is simple: “The mission comes down to saving lives,” Hartnett said.