News Updates

Caleb Nelson Memorial Race

The Caleb Nelson Memorial Race was held here at the Intl. ALERT Academy this past Saturday. This race is a grueling 12 mile trek that involves a 3 mile run, followed by a ½ mile swim through Lake Loma, continued with an 8 mile run with a 35-45 lb. pack, another short swim, and completed with a 1 mile run back to the starting line. The race is held in honor of Caleb Nelson, an ALERT man from Unit 30 who went on to join the Navy SEALs. He was killed in action over in Afghanistan. The race is run to honor the courage, strength, and humility that Caleb Nelson demonstrated throughout his life as an ALERT man and a Navy SEAL.

The Race began at 6:00 am Saturday morning. Truly, it was very exciting to see the group of approximately 40 men that came to run the race. It was also a blessing to have a large logistics team to assist in getting things set up and running smoothly. All the participants did well. The winner of the race was Sgt. Evan Tuuk, coming in with a time of 2 hrs. 21 min. and 48 sec. Second place was taken by RFC Hudson Stark with a time of 2 hrs. 23 min. and 26 sec. Third place was won by Connor Dahl with a time of 2 hrs. 24 min. and 53 sec.

Tech Rescue goes to Arkansas

Tuesday evening, August 16th, the entire tech rescue unit loaded up into a van and departed their “home-away-from-home” for Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.   Everything they had learned about high-angle rescue thus far was to be put to practice on some real cliffs. The next day, the unit hit the cliffs at the breathtaking Cameron Bluffs Overlook and proceeded to learn about setting up anchor systems in a real-world high-angle environment. These anchors were then used for the rest of the morning to rappel down and ascend back up the 120 foot rock face. The rest of the day as well the next were used to run practice scenarios off the bluffs, with each man given an equal opportunity to rotate through each of the roles of a rope rescue team; from the incident commander, to the rescuer who was lowered over the edge, right down to being a victim for the scenario.

While they were all the same generic type of rescue scenario, each one had a different twist thrown into it so as to challenge the team in new ways each time; such as the surprise scenario sprung on the group by Capt. Dankers and both Lt. Winchells later that night. The last day was spent out on the slightly less intimidating 90 foot cliffs learning about and putting to practice a crash course on rock climbing.

All in all, it was an amazing trip, with each day presenting new adventures, challenges, and learning experiences.  From the morning wisdom search that Capt. Dankers used to kick-start each day to the scenario debriefings, there was always a chance to glean something valuable and work on applying it.

-Corporal Daniel Creedon

Spc. Clayton Rothenhauser is lowered down to perform a pick-off rescue.

Spc. Matthew Hartlaub helps RFC Michael Hall in setting up a main line.

Spc. Angelo Savino shows off his rock climbing skills.

Spc. Seth Lyon prepares to rappel off the edge.

Spc. Clayton Rothenhauser and RFC Michael Hall work belay systems.

Capt. Dankers and Lt. Bryan Winchell oversee one of the scenarios.

After a day of scenarios, several of the guys decided to hike to the highest point in Arkansas:
(Clockwise left to right) Spc. Angelo Savino,Spc. Clayton Rothenhauser, Spc. Jonathan Kilpatrick,
RFC Michael Hall, Micah Dankers, and Cpl. Daniel Creedon.

Everyone poses for a group photo at the end of the trip. Clockwise from top left: Capt. Steve Dankers,
Lt. Bryan Winchell, RFC Michael Hall, Spc. Clayton Rothenhauser, Spc. Seth Lyon, Lt. Stephen Winchell,
Cpl. Daniel Creedon, Spc. Travis Ryden, Spc. Matthew Hartlaub,
Spc. Angelo Savino and Spc. Jonathan Kilpatrick.

UNIT 44 ERT DIVE TRIP

We have spent the past four weeks in Miami, Florida training Unit 44 ERT in Underwater Search and Recovery. ERT was spit into two groups of about twenty new divers, and each group spent two weeks in Miami. The first of the two weeks was spent training them in Open Water and Advanced Open Water Diving. After successfully completing Advanced Open Water, they met the certification requirements of the National Academy of Police Diving (NAPD) for Special Response Diving (SRD). The second week was spent diving in canals as part of the SRD course.  By the end of the two weeks they all were certified in Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Special Response Diving.

First Group

The first week started out rough with about half of the group having colds. Despite this setback they all did well and were ready for SRD by week two.  During the first week they got to enjoy the pristine waters of Crystal Lake and Winston Park Lake.

Week two – SRD. Most of them were pretty nervous about searching in the alligator infested canals with minimal visibility, but after several days of searching in the canal they were ready to go look for cars. On the last day they found two cars.

Second Group

This group got off to a better start because unlike the first group they were healthy when they arrived. Other than the healthier start everything went about the same for the second group. They did Open Water and Advanced Open Water the first week and Special Response Diving the second week. At the end of the second week we went back to where the first group had found the two cars and searched again. This time we found a Corvette that had been dumped there during the two weeks since the first group had been there.

Isaac Lemelin (left) Cody Price (right)

Unit 43 Public Safety Diving Training

This past week unit 43 went through the NAPD SRD (Search & Recovery Diving) training. They started in canals on Monday and practiced all the different search patterns along with actual training in an low visibility to no visibility environment.

Dive Master Mark Sowash (left) preparing to observe his two students, Nathan Mellas and Connor Dahl, (right) in their search skills.

It was great to see them all improve each day as they get more used to the public safety side as opposed to the sport diving side.  They all enjoyed their training and progressed more and more each day.  At the end of the week they had a chance to put their skills to the test and do a search for vehicles.  They searched 2 lakes with a depth of 60′ and visibility of about 25′.   Two vehicles were successfully found – 1 had been reported stolen in 2008.

Nathan McGrath (top) converses with his dive buddy, Jeremy Yoder as they practice a search they must master to gain the title of public safety diver.

ERT Unit 43 Open & Advanced SCUBA Training

The past week the aquatics dive masters and past aquatic graduates  (dive instructors) taught Unit 43′s ERT open water and advanced open water SCUBA training. The week started Sunday night with class, the day they arrived, and continued to the next morning when they were in the water and doing the skills.

Jordan Harvel (Instructor for CETI Dive corp.), a graduate of ALERT Aquatics, oversees the in-water skills in the shallow end of the pool.

With a class of 25 students and 7 Dive master/Instructors the week went well and everyone adapted quickly from class room teaching to in water practicals.  Each day the students dove twice to get the appropriate amount of time underwater to be able to be certified.

Jed Backus shows his students the correct way to find their regulator in case of it being pulled or knocked out of their mouths.

They all did extremely well.  The dive masters worked fast and quickly taught all the appropriate skills for open and advanced SCUBA, including underwater navigation, night diving and deep diving.   The students all excelled each day to learn the required skills in hopes of completing the required certifications to make it to a public safety diver this next week through NAPD.

ERT Unit 43 Open & Advanced SCUBA Training

The past week the aquatics dive masters and past aquatic graduates  (dive instructors) taught Unit 43′s ERT open water and advanced open water SCUBA training. The week started Sunday night with class, the day they arrived, and continued to the next morning when they were in the water and doing the skills.

Jordan Harvel (Instructor for CETI Dive corp.), a graduate of ALERT Aquatics, oversees the in-water skills in the shallow end of the pool.

With a class of 25 students and 7 Dive master/Instructors the week went well and everyone adapted quickly from class room teaching to in water practicals.  Each day the students dove twice to get the appropriate amount of time underwater to be able to be certified.

Jed Backus shows his students the correct way to find their regulator in case of it being pulled or knocked out of their mouths.

They all did extremely well.  The dive masters worked fast and quickly taught all the appropriate skills for open and advanced SCUBA, including underwater navigation, night diving and deep diving.   The students all excelled each day to learn the required skills in hopes of completing the required certifications to make it to a public safety diver this next week through NAPD.

NASE Instructor Conference

The Aquatic Dive masters had the chance to participate in the first NASE Instructor conference at the NASE Worldwide head quarters starting July 30. Arriving in Ocala, FL on Thursday the 28th, on the following morning they were treated to a tour of the facilities and were invited to dive in a narrow but deep blue hole. The visibility in the water was close to 50′ vertical and 72′ horizontal ans the water dark blue in color.

The 40 fathom grotto

In the beautiful blue waters of the grotto

Lift Specialist

This past week was lift specialist instruction taught through NAPD (National Academy of Police Diving) .  The class went well and all passed their skills demonstration test. Students practiced boat recoveries, car recoveries, and moving and positioning of underwater pipe lines.

Josh Thomson removing an air hose from the air bag so the pipe can be moved to its desired location.

Divers Colin Price (right) Josh Thomson (center) and Mark Sowash (left) inside their recovered boat.

The boat was lifted in two stages, one just to get it close to the surface and off the bottom and the second to get the sides out of the water.  (In order to bail water out of the boat so it would be independent of the lift bags.)

The lifting pontoon holds all of the needed gear so it is a short swim to get what is needed no matter the lift.

This pontoon contained all the gear needed to make a safe controlled lift of any vehicle, small boat, small aircraft, or anything needing to be lifted. It was easy to move and the swim to get more gear short and fast.  It was able to be lifted while the divers were standing right next to the object, and keeping an eye on the lifting process.

Body Recovery

On Sunday July 18th, The ALERT Dive team was called out to a search for a drowning victim.  When we arrived we met up with the the game wardens who were overseeing the search.  The boat they had on scene could only take one diver.  Colin Price was sent out with a crew of two game wardens.  Colin went down on the lines they had dropped on high probable areas (about 5 or 6) and searched just around the buoy.   He collected information on the temperature, bottom composition, and visibility.  The rest of the dive team (Mark Sowash, Josh Thomson, and Joel Talley) waited until a second boat was brought on scene and when it arrived, loaded all their gear and went out to assist him.   When they arrived, they immediately dropped down and began to search the areas.  After covering approximately 1,884 square feet and having yet to come up with a body, the team waited for the first boat that was equipped with side scan to search for more high probable areas.  After covering an area equivalent to four football fields or 180,000 square feet, dusk was long since pastand the search was called off for the night.   We are confident that the victim was not in the area covered by our divers.
Some might say that we failed, or did not succeed, but that is not how search and recovery is conducted.  We did our job to the best of our abilities and we knew that the body was not in our assigned search area.

(Left to Right)
Colin Price, Joel Talley, Mark Sowash, and Josh Thomson

Agency’s involved: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department , Whitehouse FD and Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

We are glad to report that they did find the victim later the next day.