Members of an Army Special Forces team conducted a search and rescue mission at Magens Bay, St. Thomas, during Vigilant Guard 17-03, a large-scale disaster response training exercise that began May 15 and ends May 19 on St. Thomas and St. Croix here.

Natural Disaster Response Exercise

Vigilant Guard 17-03 is a national disaster response exercise hosted by the Virgin Islands National Guard and U.S. Northern Command.

The team participating in the exercise usually performs such training in South America, so it was a change to train in a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. Another difference in this training was the scale of the disaster relief scenario.

“We got the call that there was a large-scale disaster relief effort that was needed in the Virgin Islands and we were in Puerto Rico,” said a member of the team. “We were able to respond with our helicopter assets and load our boats onto the helos and were able to get in before everyone else by helocasting into the ocean, and come ashore.”

Scouting the Disaster Area

The team’s mission was an integral part of the scenario. If it was a real life situation, the team would be the first on the ground and would be tasked with initial scouting of the disaster area.

“Well, we had to get in early to see what’s going on and conduct patrols so we could send back the information to the Coast Guard and other assets that are coming in, such as what roads are accessible,” said the member. “Based upon our medical capabilities we will be able to treat casualties as we find them. Also, because we have aerial assets, we can use those assets to get those out that are really hurt badly.”

Other Search-and-Rescue Missions

The five-day exercise will include other search and rescue missions, road clearing, water purification, and the transportation and care of casualties conducted by the Virgin Islands National Guard alongside other military forces in support of the territory’s response agencies.

The team is set to continue to provide assistance throughout the exercise, as requested.