WASHINGTON — Visitors to the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree can enjoy the zip lines, tree house, skate park and many other amenities and activities provided at the nine-day event thanks to the hard work and dedication of many organizations, volunteers and first responders in the local community.
One such group of emergency responders is the firefighters of the Mt. Hope Volunteer Fire Department. However, the small community department isn’t alone in its efforts. Six members of the Martinsburg-based 167th Airlift Wing Fire Department have joined forces with local firefighters and the BSA fire team to support Jamboree.
“Our mission here is to support the Mt. Hope Fire Department and the community,” said Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Crisman, Assistant Chief of Training, 167th Airlift Wing Fire Department. “Our primary mission is support of the helicopters coming and going up on the Summit … support of fire suppression up at the camp itself.”
Crisman added they have assisted with heat exhaustion cases, medical calls in the community and a structure fire in nearby Oak Hill.
They’re among more than 750 members of the National Guard supporting the Jamboree, which began July 15 and ends Wednesday.
Some assist with security, some assist with media escorting, some such as the 249th West Virginia Army National Guard Band are here to entertain, or so they thought.
The 249th band is a great example of National Guard soldiers never truly being "off duty" and what it means to be a soldier 24/7.
Upon concluding a successful performance at the Summit, the bandmaster and commander of the West Virginia 249th Army National Guard Band, Chief Warrant Officer Five Thomas A. Goff, agreed to take the band out for ice cream.
Returning to camp, they encountered a motor vehicle crash that left one car overturned with two patients, a mother and her daughter.
Using their recently acquired Combat Lifesaver skills and gear, they provided first aid until rescue crews arrived a half hour later.
“Both the mother and the daughter were conscious throughout the entire ordeal, so that was a very good sign,” said Spc. Gregory Larsen, a band member who cared for the mother.
The activities are ongoing at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, where two Air Force firefighters are positioned at all times to assist crews with the scouts. “We’ve been running medicals and landing helicopters,” said Airman 1st Class Cory Roberts, a firefighter with the 167th Airlift Wing.
The majority of the firefighters’ missions have involved medical aid and heat-related illnesses. However, some missions have been more than the men expected. On Tuesday, Summit firefighters were called out to take care of a rattlesnake nest that was discovered on the site.
“Sometimes, when you don’t know who to call, you call the fire department,” Crisman said.
“The warmer the weather, the more activity we have,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Gengler, Fire Chief, 167th Airlift Wing Fire Department. “The scouts get somewhat dehydrated, so we’re assisting with that.”
In addition to running missions, deflecting wildlife and tending to scouts in need, the two fire crews have taken some time to cross train on each others’ equipment and tactics.
“We do day to day training in our career field,” Crisman said. “We also use that training in our job here. We’ve helped train some of these guys here. It’s kind of like sitting around sharing our stories … it’s really great, it works well and we enjoy doing it.”
Volunteers from the Mt. Hope Department have had the opportunity to train on the 167th’s P-19 Crash Truck, which has capabilities that the MHVFD vehicles do not. Firefighters also train with each other every day, sharing experiences, tactics and techniques and stories of past missions.
“It’s an opportunity to work with other men who have an insight on different things that you never see,” said Lt. Joey Criss, Mt. Hope Volunteer Fire Department. “You can talk to them and they can tell you their experiences and you can tell them your experiences. I think that it is a great opportunity that everyone should have.”
“We’re working well together,” Roberts echoed. “I’ve never met these guys a day in my life but we come together and it’s like a big family.”
Crisman added the community has been welcoming of the increase in military personnel. He noted the home-cooked meals from wives, mothers and other residents have added to the group’s morale during their time in Fayette County.
“The Mt. Hope Fire Department and the town of Mt. Hope has really been hospitable to us,” he said. “We enjoy helping out with our state and the Boy Scouts.”