Task Force One preps for disaster responses

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– Operations chief Chuck Jones joined the Texas A&M task force back in 1997 and he knew why it was his calling.

“Being part of the task force is the opportunity to help people in their worst days, when they’re having or experiencing the worst time in their life,” Jones said. “To be able to be there and help those individuals is extremely fulfilling.”

With that motivation in mind, he continues to lead a team of hundreds each year to prepare for disasters of all kinds. He was one of the people who responded to the 9/11 attacks in New York. Texas A&M Task Force One is a state operation but they are also one of 28 nationwide FEMA response teams.

“Those were 210-story office buildings but there were no desks, there were no telephones, there were no fax machines, it was all ground up. There was nothing really discernable,” said Jones.

For these team members, they train for these types of events. They say, by far, some of the most devastating events are floods. 

“We study for the test. We know when hurricane season is. We actually do all our training up until June,” director Jeff Saunders said.

From June through October, the team is on their missions, often performing rescues with the help of canines, like Gunny.

“When we get to that disaster zone, when we identify structures that have been compromised, buildings falling down, they may have people inside,” training coordinator Christy Bormann said.

Gunny just recently returned from a deployment for Hurricane Michael in Florida. His job is to find any living people buried under rubble.

“In order for us to be able to search for a person who was unconscious or unresponsive, we would have to turn over every portion of that structure to physically search that with our eyes,” Bormann said. “Smell is able to move around a lot more effectively than our sight can ever hope to do.”

As the Atlantic hurricane season heats up, Texans and the rest of the country should feel at ease, knowing a team of hundreds is ready to deploy when needed to save lives.