SD National Guard trains with SURF Emergency Response Team

January 24, 2024

LEAD- S.D.- The South Dakota National Guard recently completed a training exercise with the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Emergency Response Team (ERT).

The exercise included a mock chemical contamination scenario where crews had to find a missing person underground and organize a simulated rope rescue from a confined space.

Barry VanSickle, SURF ERT Supervisor, said this opportunity provided valuable training and networking for his team.

“Anytime you can work with an outside group, you get to learn all their equipment and capabilities. So, if we actually have a real event here, or anywhere else, we know what they can do and we also know what they need,” VanSickle said. “The South Dakota National Guard Serves the whole state, and their capabilities are awesome, just awesome.”

Capt. Michael Wollman with the South Dakota National Guard 82nd Civil Support Team (CST) said the opportunity to train with the mine rescue experts at SURF is also valuable for his team.

“Doing this sort of training exercise at SURF allows us to create the perfect storm. We get the tunnels, the confined spaces, we get the rope work with lowering and raising a patient through a hole, how difficult it is to get that person out through that hole. But yet, we also get to wear our suits and do some work on a simulated chemical spill,” Wollman said.

The South Dakota National Guard brought in their experts at rescue situations with nuclear, biological, and chemical contamination.

“That’s their forte. They can detect and neutralize these sorts of events,” said VanSickle. “They can treat and decontaminate patients. They also bring full medical labs and state-of-the-art communication systems.

“We, on the other hand are firefighters, paramedics, and we’re all trained in mine rescue, so we get put into a different environment,” he continued. “And that’s what we’re really good at. So, you bring those two things together, and it’s a symbiotic relationship. This makes both of our teams better. And that’s why you train with different units or different agencies to grow your team’s skills.”