Light Urban Search and Rescue capability a perfect fit for Army Reserve

Light Urban Search and Rescue capability a perfect fit for Army Reserve

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Article / March 11, 2019 / Project number: 19-0070

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Esquimalt, British Columbia — Members of the Canadian Army Reserve (ARes) can now add Light Urban Search and Rescue (LUSAR) to their expanding list of mission tasks.

The first round of training has already taken place at the four ARes artillery units – in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax – that have been selected to house the LUSAR capability.

The addition of LUSAR to the ARes is just the latest development in the Canadian Army’s ongoing Strengthening the Army Reserve (StAR) initiative. StAR is an effort to boost ARes recruitment and improve retention by, among many other things, broadening the variety of mission tasks available to ARes units.

Mission tasks defined

Mission tasks encompass a wide range of significant and specific Canadian Army functions, including LUSAR. Examples of other mission tasks include Arctic Response Company Groups, Territorial Battalion Groups, Infantry Platoons, Assault Pioneers, Mortars, Influence Activities, Long Haul Trucking, and Light Engineer Bridging. Each ARes unit will be assigned the resources required to train and employ soldiers in their unit’s specific mission task.

Glenn Cooper leads the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in British Columbia. In charge of training the ARes teams, he noted that it is the complexity of LUSAR that makes it an ideal fit for the Army’s part-time force.

Unlike Reservists, he explained, full-time soldiers in the Regular Force generally move to new postings every three years, which would make retaining the required skills much more difficult.

“So the longevity of the Reserve units is ideal for this capability.”

A LUSAR team’s tasks include reconnaissance and hazard evaluation in disaster-affected areas. The smallest of the three search-and-rescue models, LUSAR teams differ from their medium and heavy counterparts in terms of size – they consist of 18 to 30 personnel versus 30 to 70 for a medium team, and 70 to 120 for a heavy team.

“All three work together,” Mr. Cooper explained. “You get the light team out quickly so they can do the search and recon portion. By the time the medium and heavy teams start arriving, that portion is done. Then the work sites are already prioritized and the others can get to work more quickly.”

A hazardous materials awareness course is a prerequisite to the training.

“That’s just to identify that there’s a product, identify it as hazardous and know how far to remove their members or the public away from that to keep them safe,” Mr. Cooper explained. “They are not dealing with the material or trying to contain it.”

LUSAR teams also include medics whose primary role is to aid team members in distress, though they will also assist with civilian casualties where necessary.

The practices and training standards involved are governed by civilian bodies, with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada being the lead agency. A LUSAR team would be called into action only when provincial governments formally request military assistance for disaster response.

So far, Mr. Cooper said, Reservists have been an enthusiastic training audience.

“I think, coming in, they were apprehensive. By the end, the majority were asking, ‘How can I get more training?’ It’s taking them way beyond anything they ever thought they would do. There’s no perfect way to do any type of rescue. You’ve got to think on your feet and it does challenge people.”

Major Pawel Dudek is Desk Officer for the LUSAR capability at 39 Canadian Brigade Group (39 CBG) in Vancouver. 39 CBG encompasses 15th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, where the LUSAR capability for Western Canada is based.

Maj Dudek received training from Mr. Cooper and his team back in 2006, before LUSAR was added to the list of Reserve mission tasks.

“The training that’s being provided by Glen and his crew is very valuable because it’s very realistic,” he said.

The foundational soldiering skills that all Reservists bring to the table are a good fit for LUSAR operations, Maj Dudek added, and a strong complement to the civilian practitioners that they will work alongside when called upon.

“When you add on the LUSAR skills, you have a very capable and very disciplined Reserve Force that’s being welcomed with open arms by the civilian practitioners. What we lack is something they can provide, and we can provide what they lack. So I would say it’s a very symbiotic relationship.”

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