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Tennessee Guard conducts water rescues during exercise

Tennessee National Guardsman work with members of the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency during a water rescue exercise, August 5, at Old Hickory Lake, during Vigilant Guard 2021, a large-scale inter-agency exercise simulating a dangerous hurricane impacting communities across Tennessee.

Tennessee National Guardsman work with members of the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency during a water rescue exercise, August 5, at Old Hickory Lake, during Vigilant Guard 2021, a large-scale inter-agency exercise simulating a dangerous hurricane impacting communities across Tennessee.

LEBANON, Tenn. – The Tennessee National Guard teamed with local agencies Aug. 5 to conduct three simulated rescue missions in Lebanon and Smyrna. 

The simulated rescues were part of Vigilant Guard 2021, a week-long, statewide training exercise simulating a natural disaster and its effects on communities across the state.

The Tennessee National Guard performed the rescues with the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Nashville Fire Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.

In one scenario, National Guard members used a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to fly the Nashville Fire Department’s Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team over Old Hickory Lake to rescue people stranded in the water. Williamson County EMA officials trained Guard members on proper techniques for water rescues. Guardsmen and Williamson County EMA members played the role of citizens hoisted out of the water and lifted 200 feet into a hovering helicopter.

In a separate exercise at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, members of the Lebanon Fire Department acted as stranded citizens and were hoisted out of danger by the Tennessee National Guard and the Nashville Fire Department. 

These large-scale interagency exercises provided a critical opportunity to practice for real disasters in Tennessee.

“Having all these different agencies working together is great,” said Capt. Tommie Lane, project officer for Vigilant Guard 2021. “When something real happens and we need to act quickly to save lives, we will already have good relationships that will help us respond to incidents.”

More than 600 Soldiers and Airmen from the Tennessee National Guard and 400 emergency professionals from 50 federal, state and local agencies trained alongside one another during the exercise.

“Locally, we work with emergency personnel pretty much on a daily basis,” said Lee Bowling, Williamson County EMA shift commander. “The ability to incorporate the Tennessee National Guard, and all they can offer, makes us that much more effective in saving lives.”

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