The feeling you get from this is a satisfaction that is hard to describe.
Earlier this year, I got an e-mail from Rodger Harrison, President of Paramedics for Children, about a mission trip to Guatemala. Paramedics for Children solicits used ambulances to be donated and then taken to Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala. They also run clinics for the children in these countries. The e-mail I got was slightly different, it was asking for instructors to go to Guatemala and train a group of their rescue folks. They were also looking for a used rescue truck to be donated and equipment to go on that truck. I e-mailed my interest in the trip, my resume and waited to see what would happen.
Several months later I was contacted by Woody Sullivan of Pender County EMS and Rescue. He was donating their used rescue truck and had become the mission team leader. After several conversations and e-mails he asked if I would serve as co-leader. I graciously accepted the position and my job was to put together the training program and outlines. Woody would work on assembling the team and we would both work on getting equipment donated. I was also looking at securing several slots on the team from our rescue team.
It was soon established that the time frame would be in late July or August. This was going to put a major wrench in the trip for Woody, as school and work was going to be a problem. After much thought and deliberation, Woody came to the conclusion he would not be able to make this mission trip. With much regret he called me and asked if I would take over as team leader for the mission. I accepted and soon the “real” fun was to begin.
I now had to put together my team and get as much rescue equipment donated for the truck as possible before we left in August. I put several e-mails out for equipment along with several articles. I ascertained from Roger what training they needed, what they already knew, and how many folks would we be training. He informed me we would be training about 50. Now the real challenge begins.
First, I needed to put together a team of at least 12 Instructors that would not only be qualified to teach vehicle extrication and rope rescue, but be flexible enough in their teaching to conform to whatever might get thrown at us. It also needed to be a group that could get along, as we would be spending an entire week together. The first place I went was my own rescue team, as I know we have a great bunch of certified instructors, but I also knew we would not have enough instructors to make up the mission team.
I put the word out to my folks and within a fairly short time had eight of my guys willing to go. They were my Technical Captain, Luke Steele; Technical Lieutenant, Chuck Webb; Water Captain, Bo Medlin; Water & Training Lieutenant, Shannon Orndorff; Member, Jamie Smith; Member, Craig Salvesen, and Member, Mike Arnold. Using their resources we were able to pick two more, Cory Strange, Rocky Mount Fire; and Mike Allen, Creedmoor Fire. I also asked Joe Mancos from Moore County EMS to join us, and he graciously accepted. The last person I wanted to include was a long time friend of mine who has taken many mission trips to Central America and other places, Bruce Pearce. I now had my mission team put together.
Next, I put together a list of equipment I felt we needed to get by with for the truck. Knowing they had virtually no extrication equipment and very little rope equipment, the list was not hard to put together. I put some feelers out but things were slow coming back. My e-mail on the NCAFC got little response and it was apparent our team would have to push hard to make things happen. Having been in rescue for 34 years, I have made a lot of contacts and friends, so it was time to start making some calls. Rescue Jack was the first to come onboard with some stabilization struts. Turtle Cribbing followed with a set of plastic cribbing. Next, Sterling Rope helped out with ropes and accessory cords. REI and Southeastern Emergency Equipment donated pulleys, carabiners, eights and brake racks for the rigging pack. Agri-Supply donated a set of high-lift jacks, 60” pry bar, and a come along. Loop Road Auto Parts gave us two hydraulic bottle jacks as did Fleetpride. Mac Tools donated hand tools and an air wrench. Lowes gave us power cords, quartz light, sledge hammer, screw drivers, pry bars, and hacksaws. Bosch put in 100 reciprocating blades, and Hudson’s Hardware of Garner threw in a 36 inch pair of bolt cutters. Rocky Mount Fire rounded up some air pack frames, power cords, lights, gloves, hand tools and several helmets. The Reds Team kicked in two stokes baskets, four stainless steel pulleys, four one-half inch lifelines, webbing, two corded reciprocating saws, one cordless reciprocating saw, one cordless impact wrench, airline, haligan tool, Paratech tool, fire axe, (five) 2.2 old Scott air packs, and purchased a new battery for the truck. We also acquired a used Phoenix hydraulic combination tool, cutter and portable power unit. We now had some good basic equipment to put on the donated rescue truck and use for training.
Our time was drawing near and we needed to get the truck to our station so we could get the equipment on it and ready for the “drive” to Guatemala. That’s right, the truck was going to be picked up in Gastonia, NC and driven to Guatemala. Jesus would be picking it up and making the long and tedious drive to Guatemala City. The truck was delivered to Gastonia, then Mike Arnold and I made the drive from Raleigh to bring it back. We then spent the weekend putting the donated equipment on the truck. We got the equipment loaded and mounted and returned the truck back to Gastonia on Monday, now ready for the trip to Guatemala.
The airline tickets were purchased and the team was preparing for the trip. Most of us had to get Hepatitis A shots, as well as our medications for typhoid. A tetanus booster was also needed. Most of the team members also had to get their passports. To make a good impression, I ordered all the members a jumpsuit and had them embroidered. I also had everyone four T-shirts screened, and got shirts from Rescue Jack, Sterling Rope, and Paramedics for Children. I also got hats from Sterling Rope and Rescue Jack for us to wear. The plan was to wear different shirts each day so we stayed looking professional and as a team. The jumpsuits were our meet and greet attire. Everything was now falling into place as we continued to try and bring in donations for the trip. Each team member had to cover the cost of their airfare, shots and passports. We did get donations from Four Oaks Bank, KS Bank, Jones Insurance, and Dail Properties. But this was only a small amount to what it was going to cost. Hopefully next year we will do better with the donations.
The truck was on its way and we were now ready to make the trip. It was only a week before we were scheduled to fly out when I got an e-mail from Rodger and Silva. Silva was our liaison from Guatemala. They informed me that the truck had transmission problems and was stranded in Mexico. This now became a problem, not knowing if the truck would make it to Guatemala by the time we arrived. We were asked if the truck didn’t make it, could we change our flights. However, this was not going to be an option, so plan B was to have a pickup truck go to Mexico and get the equipment off the truck and take it back to Guatemala. Luckily, they got the truck repaired and it was now on its way. We arrived at Raleigh Durham Airport at 6:15am on Sunday, August the 1st, ready for our 7:30am flight to Atlanta, then on to Guatemala.
Next issue I will talk about our flight over, reception and our training plans and execution. We are already scheduled to return in July 2010 to continue with the training we started and take them up to another level. We are also going to train a group of “Bomberos” or firefighters, as well as try and get them some equipment donated. We can use any of the following equipment for our return trip; hydraulic tools, PowerHawk tool, air lift bags, hand tools, SCBA’s, turnout gear, boots, and helmets. We can use another used rescue truck as well. This rescue truck is the only one of its kind in the entire country, so any used rescue and fire equipment is a treasure to them. If you know or can donate any equipment, e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 919-291-6201. Until next time, train hard and stay safe.
David Pease, Chief
The Reds Team