The Fort Leonard Wood Homeland Defense/Civil Support Program’s new Urban Search and Rescue course graduated its first Rescuer Level I and II class earlier this month.

During the 35-day Rescue Course for active-duty, six different disciplines are taught: rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, structural collapse rescue, vehicle rescue and machinery rescue. The 12-day Extractor Course for National Guard teaches three of these: rope rescue, confined space rescue and structural collapse rescue. Both course levels are taught at Training Area 235A, an area containing twin 60-foot towers, wrecked vehicles and trenches.

According to Jay Rutherford, Urban Search and Rescue department chief, the most played out scenario used for training is a nuclear attack, followed by a New Madrid Fault exercise, both of which he says would be overwhelming events in which the active Army could be called to respond to.

“The six disciplines that we teach is what they would use to try and rescue people,” he said. “All that rope rescue, confined space, breaching and breaking — that’s what they go out and do to try and rescue people in the training area’s building, in the trench or from cars. That’s why they’re here and why the training is designed this way.”

Rutherford said the course is currently a functional course, meaning Soldiers in any military occupational specialty may attend, but it is typically unit designated.

Spc. David Hawkins, a 12R (electrician) with the 68th Engineer Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion out of Fort Hood, Texas, said his unit was selected for an upcoming DCRF, or Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Response Force mission, and that is how he came to be enrolled in the course.

“This training will actually help out a lot,” Hawkins said. “When it comes to saving people we have to cut off the utilities, and that’s where the 12Rs and 12Ks (plumbers) come in — that is our job. We’ll help with the lockout-tagout and we’re learning these skills so we can go along for the rescue, as well.”

Hawkins added, “I’m really liking the training. I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before since this (training) is not part of my MOS. You never know where or when you might need these skills.”

In addition to the disciplines taught, students must also attend the week-long HAZMAT Operations Course at the Incident Response Training Department; followed by learning Basic Life Support, CPR and AED training once they arrive at US&R.

Rutherford said another requirement includes not being on profile, and students should not be claustrophobic or have acrophobia (fear of heights.)

In the end, a total of 13 certificates can be earned through the course, all recognized by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress, the Pro Board and the DoD.

“It’s very tough, very demanding,” Rutherford said. “The training is first class, and I think our instructors are some of the best in the country. Each discipline that the school offers certificates in will translate to the civilian world if you’re trying to get in to be a first responder or on a fire department.”

Students practice rescue techniques on one of the 60-foot towers located on Training Area 235A during the Urban Search and Rescue Level I and II course.