Georgia Search and Rescue reins in new recruits

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 8, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A new class of local heroes trained Tuesday in new ways to save lives.

This week, recruits for Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force 2 began their final training session. Nearly 40 participants from 11 different fire departments around South Georgia learned tactics for structural rescues, training for a collapsed building or someone trapped inside, for example.

"It's a lot of material out here we're working with, a lot of heavy concrete. It's a little intimidating when we first got here," said recruit Keith Niehanke. "We get a team together, something we might not be as sharp on, someone else is and vice versa. That's why we're a team, we work together. We put our heads together and come up with a solution."

The group is hoping to join dozens of others, making up a task force of more than 90 rescuers. They are trained to respond to emergencies all across the region, from natural disasters to search and rescues.

This training week is the last of four sessions throughout the year, the first beginning last January. Once a part of the task force, members retrain all year long.

Special Operations Captain Jeff Thibodeau said it's important for everyone to always be ready to put their training to use.

"These are very technical, and a lot of them are very very critical, dangerous skills that we do. As far as dangerous for us as rescuers and also dangerous to the people that we're going in to rescue," Thibodeau said. "It's something that we have to keep continue honing our skills, getting better."

Georgia Search and Rescue is a state funded program. Although based in Valdosta, members are authorized to serve all across the nation.