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Training prepares Kentucky Air Guard team to recover fallen comrades

Airman First Class Anthony Cirwithian (right), a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, zips up a MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit for Senior Airman Ben Bohannon, another FSRT member, at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airman First Class Anthony Cirwithian (right), a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, zips up a MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit for Senior Airman Ben Bohannon, another FSRT member, at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Parker Hale, a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, briefs FSRT members before a training exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Parker Hale, a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, briefs FSRT members before a training exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airman First Class Anthony Cirwithian (right), a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team, helps Senior Airman Ben Bohannon don boots from a MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airman First Class Anthony Cirwithian (right), a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team, helps Senior Airman Ben Bohannon don boots from a MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team move a training mannequin with a gurney during a training exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team move a training mannequin with a gurney during a training exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team prepare for a training mission during an exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018.  Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team prepare for a training mission during an exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Parker Hale, a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team, briefs FSRT members before a training exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Parker Hale, a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team, briefs FSRT members before a training exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Sara Hozian, team lead with the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, leads a refresher course on the MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit prior to a training exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Senior Airman Sara Hozian, team lead with the Kentucky Air National Guard's Fatality Search and Recovery Team, leads a refresher course on the MT94 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense suit prior to a training exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Specialized air purifying respirator masks protect Fatality Search and Recovery Team members from the Kentucky Air National Guard during real-world missions. Those same masks were used during a training exercise at Rough River State Resort Park in Falls of Rough, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Specialized air purifying respirator masks protect Fatality Search and Recovery Team members from the Kentucky Air National Guard during real-world missions. Those same masks were used during a training exercise at Rough River near Cave Creek, Ky., on July 18, 2018. Thirteen members of the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the three-day exercise to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

FALLS OF ROUGH, Ky. --

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard set up a training site here July 16 to simulate the recovery and repatriation of fallen service members.

The 123rd Airlift Wing’s Services Flight sent a total of 13 troops for the training, which was designed to prepare them to respond to real-world disasters, said Capt. Jonathan Fairbanks, the mission’s officer-in-charge.

The Airmen, all part of the wing’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team, began their three-day scenario by establishing a base camp at Rough River Dam State Resort Park.

FSRT leadership used the “crawl, walk, run” concept throughout the mission, Fairbanks explained. The troops spent the first two days setting up supplies, troubleshooting equipment and sitting through classroom training. The Airmen then showcased their knowledge on the third day with hands-on execution by simulating the recovery of deceased service members in a chemically hazardous environment.

Not only were the troops challenged physically by their cumbersome protective suits and equipment, but they also had to be mentally “fit-to-fight” in order to successfully complete the mission, Fairbanks said.

“We go out, we recover those that have lost their lives and we’re trying to bring them back with dignity to their loved ones,” Fairbanks said. “That’s what this mission does. So these guys go out, and when they operate, I just want them to keep that in the back of their minds; that there is a bigger purpose here.”

The Grayson County Coroner and a representative from local law enforcement were also on hand to observe capabilities the Airmen can offer the community.

Fairbanks emphasized not only the importance of the mission, but also his Airmen’s ability to completely sustain themselves. The team prepared its own meals, and supplied its own tents, electricity and transportation.

While working at least 14 hours a day, the FSRT also ran the gamut of hazardous terrain, according to Senior Airman Sara Hozian, an exercise team leader.

“I think the most difficult challenge is getting suited up, having long hours and going through the different types of terrain,” Hozian said.

“There are rock hazards and chemical hazards we have to deal with. We have floods and any kind of natural disaster you can think of. No matter what has happened, we will go through it and do our job.

“We don’t mess around. We want to get this job done, and we want to do it safely and securely,” she added. “This isn’t a glamorous job, but we’re bringing people home.”

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