Texas Task Force 1, which operates under the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, has been training for months ahead of the 2018 hurricane season that began June 1.
Texas A&M University System chancellor John Sharp said Texas Task Force 1 members demonstrated why they are considered the country’s premiere search and rescue team last month when the group participated in the largest aerial search and rescue exercise in the history of the United States.
Working with the Texas Military Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and more than 20 other state and federal agencies, Texas Task Force 1 took part in a helicopter-based exercise in Austin that was designed to help improve communication and coordination between the various response agencies.
Chancellor Sharp spoke recently with Lt. Col. Troy Meuth, who directs the aerial search and rescue efforts for the Texas Military Department, about the recent training exercise.
Check out the video here:
“Texas Task Force 1 and the folks that work with Texas Task Force 1 are indeed the best in the country,” Chancellor Sharp said.
The Texas A&M University System’s support has made Texas Task Force 1 a leader in hurricane response, said Lt. Col. Meuth, who is sometimes referred to as “Col. Aggie” because of his family’s strong connection to Texas A&M University. He is Class of ’90, his wife Lisa is Class of ’91, and his daughter Amanda graduated in 2018.
Further, the colonel said that the sense of teamwork and dedication of all the agencies in the recent exercise helped to make Texas as prepared as possible for the current hurricane season.
“We are doing this to prepare for the next Harvey,” Lt. Col. Mueth said.
Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm — dumping feet of rain on and flooding much of Houston as it hovered for days as a tropical storm — before finally trudging to the northeast and flooding additional towns.
Boaters helped overwhelmed emergency response teams rescue victims stranded in the flood waters.
Along with the Texas A&M System, Lt. Col. Mueth credited Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, for making preparedness a priority in Texas.
The recent day-and-night exercise, which was dubbed “The SAREX 2018,” included 21 aviation assets and 200 participants representing 31 different agencies. The group conducted 67 missions with more than 80 hours of flight time and made 122 hoist rescues of more than 200 simulated victims.
Texas Task Force 1 functions as one of the 28 federal teams under the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue System and as a statewide urban search and rescue team under direction of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Texas Task Force 1 also coordinates the state's swift-water rescue program.