Story by Sara Paul
When a young teen went missing in the Warwick Town Park Saturday morning, the Boy Scouts of America did not hesitate to search the Wolfe Woods until he was found. Though the missing teen was only a mannequin and the short search just a drill, this was an exciting and meaningful event for the thirty or so participants.
As Boy Scouts are often called upon in times of crisis, such as combing desolate areas for missing persons, the drill is “very important and necessary because we need to be ready to assist in any kind of tragedy or even natural disaster,” said Sean Mitchell, 14, the day’s Operation Section Chief.
Organized by Assistant Scout Master Tom Currao and Town of Warwick Police Department Lieutenant John Rader, the goal of the drill was to reinforce incident command systems, search tactics and other survival skills. A unique activity, this was the first time two troops, 45 and 38, had joined together to work towards a badge, titled “Emergency Preparedness Merit,” a requirement to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
“These types of outdoor activities, such as ‘Search and Rescue,’ are a good example of how boy scouting combines knowledge, skills and hands on experience that is both informative and fun,” Currao commented.
Volunteers from the Florida Fire and Rescue and the Town of Warwick Ambulance Corps, along with the Town of Warwick Police Department were on site to provide equipment and expertise for the educational exercise.
Currao, a nine year Scout leader, noted, “Realize that these are the folks who do this on their own time and they truly help our community. Remember as you grow older to support these individuals who are really on the front lines.”
Scouts ages 11 to 16 years of age arrived early at the Park to receive their rescue scenario. Tom, an imaginary autistic teen from Florida, NY, has run away from home. He does not have food or water, and his jacket has been left behind. The charge was to locate the young boy, who may have limited communication skills and might also be attracted to water.
A first class scout and four year member, Mitchell took his leadership post seriously, organizing search teams, dispatching them to specific locations, and keeping in close contact via radio to team leaders.
After the young rescuers were sent in three groups to cover an area of approximately 200 yards, they bravely trudged over a small wooden bridge and then into the woods and thickets. About 20 minutes later, one team radioed in to “base camp.” They had located the lost and now injured Tom.
A First Aid Rescue Team was deployed next, and the troops worked hard to secure a splint on Tom’s leg and address his head trauma. The rescuers also responded that no air lift was necessary at this point, however in a real life situation, according to Currao, if there were serious injury such as internal bleeding, the air lift might be an option.
While only one team did successfully locate Tom, Currao pointed out that every single member of the rescue efforts plays an important role in the mission as a whole.
“Each person, from the person who charges the radios to the person who provides food and water, is vital in these situations,” said Currao, a Deputy Chief for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), assigned to Division 1 in Lower Manhattan.
Post drill duties included a “hot wash” or open discussion in which team members took turns reflecting on the day, expressing what they observed, what they did, and how they could improve the tactics.
Mitchell suggested a larger search area, while other Scouts commended Mitchell and each other for a smooth, organized, and well-managed operation. The professionals on site also addressed the group and gave pointers on what could happen in a real life scenario.
As for Tom, he was safely returned to his Manhattan FDNY home. For information on joining the Boy Scouts, contact Scoutmaster Kevin Brand (Troop 45) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Scoutmaster Anthony Pascullo (Troop 38) at email@example.com.