Monday, July 22, 2019

Fish & Boat Commission/PA National Guard/PEMA Swiftwater Rescue, PA Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams Receive National Recognition

On July 22, the Fish and Boat Commission announced the PFBC Swiftwater Rescue Team (SWERT) and PFBC, PA National Guard/PEMA Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) are recipients of prestigious national Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards.
These awards, presented annually in several categories, are recognized internationally as the highest achievable honor in the fields of swiftwater and flood rescue. 
Award recipients were announced on June 2 during the International Association of Water Rescue Professionals Symposium in South Bend, Indiana. 
The awards were formally presented to members of both teams at the July 16 meeting of the PFBC Board of Commissioners in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
PFBC SWERT received the Higgins and Langley Program Development Award, recognizing agencies or individuals that commit time, resources and training for successful swiftwater rescue program development. 
Programs must reflect a level of excellence that defines state of the art deployment for swiftwater and flood rescue and can be considered international models for the science. 
PFBC SWERT is a Type 1 swiftwater rescue team with law enforcement capabilities that responds to state and federally recognized disasters and provides force protection for the PA-HART team during training and incident response. 
The team consists of PFBC Waterways Conservation Officers (WCO) and civilian Water Rescue Instructors.
Recipients of the award include PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement command team, Col. Corey Britcher, Lt. Col. Larry Furlong and Thomas Burrell. Team members receiving awards were WCO Jeremiah Allen (Beaver), Instructor Leonard Basara (Luzerne), WCO Anthony Beers (W. Armstrong), Instructor Chris Calhoun (Butler), WCO Richard Daniels (E. Schuylkill), WCO Eric Davis (Greene/S. Washington), WCO Chad Doyle (SC Crawford/E. Mercer), Instructor George Drees (Dauphin), WCO Jeffrey Giardina (Mercer), Instructor Scott Grahn (Somerset), Sgt. John Hopkins (SW Region), WCO Darrin Kephart (S. York), Instructor Joel Koricich (Westmoreland), Instructor Michael Kurtz (Dauphin), Sgt. Emmett Kyler (NC Region), WCO Aaron Lupacchini (S. Luzerne/Columbia), Instructor Michael McCarthy, Capt. Anthony Quarracino (SC Region), WCO Chase Rhoades (N. Montgomery), Sgt. Jeffrey Sabo (SW Region), Instructor Jeremy Speakes, WCO (Retired) Kadin Thompson (Luzerne), Instructor Brad Tracey (York), Instructor Ryan Walt (Dauphin).
PA-HART received the Higgins and Langley Incident Award, recognizing a specific incident in which a team demonstrated outstanding skill and preparedness in a swiftwater rescue. 
From August 13-15, 2018, portions of Pennsylvania received catastrophic flooding due to saturated grounds and heavy rains. 
In one of the hardest hit areas around Benton, Columbia County, PA-HART successfully rescued multiple individuals and animals from rooftops, vehicles and debris piles. 
PA-HART moved resources and conducted search and rescue operations including hoist rescues in challenging conditions. 
PA-HART is a partnership between the PFBC, Pennsylvania Army National Guard (PANG) and the PA Emergency Management Agency along with civilian rescue technicians and civilian trained swiftwater rescue specialists. 
This highly specialized aerial search and rescue team provides an air asset for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation to respond to natural and manmade disasters incidents. 
Team members receive technical training that prepares them to engage in hostile environmental conditions both urban and wilderness setting.
Recipients of the award include Ryan Walt, PA-HART Program Manager/Rescue Technician (Dauphin); Oren "Bud" Kauffman, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (Cumberland); George Drees, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (Dauphin), WCO Darrin Kephart, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (S. York); Sgt. Emmett Kyler, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (NC Region); Daryl Tripp, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (Dauphin); Leonard Basara, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician (Luzerne); Michael McCarthy, PA-HART Helicopter Rescue Technician; MAJ George Giles, Pilot in Command, PA National Guard; 1LT Matthew Groff, Pilot, PA National Guard; SFC Michael Moy, Crew Chief, PA National Guard.
(Photo: From video of the Columbia County flooding incident.)

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