National Guard spends weekend blizzard rescue training in North Routt
March 20, 2017
North Routt — Sunny weather didn't deter a National Guard unit from spending the weekend in North Routt sharpening their blizzard rescue skills.
A group of 38 National Guard soldiers spent Saturday and Sunday using six small unit support vehicles on a series of blizzard response simulations.
Lt. Colonel Joe Grigg said it’s the fourth year the National Guard has trained in North Routt — though they usually come in January and experience more inclement weather.
"Even this weekend, with it being as warm as it has been, it was pretty deep snow," Grigg said. "It was still deep enough to train and practice our procedures."
Grigg said the group started near the base of Hahn's Peak and used meadows and roads in the northern part of Routt National Forest for the training.
Grigg said the soldiers, all mechanics, were given locations on a map and told to look for a person in the area to rescue.
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Had the weather been worse, the group would have spent more time simulating the rescues of people in cars stranded in the snow, the most common type of rescue performed by this unit of the National Guard, Grigg said.
When quick blizzards leave cars stuck on roads closer to the Front Range or in the southeast corner of Colorado, the National Guard can be called in to rescue the stranded individuals. Past rescues have also involved helping people stuck in their remote homes during or after a storm without access to medicine or other necessities and bringing hay to livestock.
"We get called out in the worst of weather, when people are stuck in the snow," Grigg said.
The small unit support vehicle — known as an SUSV, or M973 — can negotiate varied terrain impassable to a passenger vehicle, including rocks and boulders, bogs and marshes and Arctic and Alpine conditions.
Since 1996, the Colorado National Guard has responded to four major blizzards in the state and many storms involving a single rescue.
National Guard members training this weekend are among 5,500 citizen soldiers and airmen in the Colorado National Guard, which is the first military responder during state emergencies, including floods, fires and earthquakes.
The National Guard isn't typically called in for blizzard rescue in Routt County, because Routt County Search and Rescue is already prepared with the appropriate equipment to perform such rescues, Grigg said.
However, if called, the National Guard would respond anywhere in the state, he said.