ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – During the first week of August, Santa Rosa Lake and Dam hosted Operation Pave Hawk, a scenario-based search and rescue training exercise organized by the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol and the New Mexico Civil Air Patrol.
The training, held Aug. 3-5, 2018, offered valuable experience for the participating agencies to practice working together and to improve interagency communication in both air operations and ground operations during search and rescue missions.
The New Mexico Army National Guard 720th Transportation Company; New Mexico Search and Rescue; New Mexico Department of Natural Resources-State Parks; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were among the participating agencies. Even Boy Scout Troop 411 from Clovis, N.M., was there, providing meals and completing some basic first aid, land navigation and map-reading training.
Operation Pave Hawk “was a tremendous success,” said 1st Lt. Will VanNostran with the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. “Operation Pave Hawk included participation from 14 different agencies in various capacities. Maj Beattie [with the Civil Air Patrol] and I have received nothing but positive feedback from several agencies and several have offered to play a larger participating role next go around.”
“The scenario-based training will greatly enhance search and rescue efficiency for the eastern New Mexico agencies involved in the training,” said Gary Cordova, the District’s Santa Rosa project office manager.
The exercise scenario was that a weather system had developed in the Santa Rosa Lake area, with large rain-producing cells, hail, lightning and strong downdrafts. There was large-scale flooding, possible structural damage to the dam, and several campers and hikers were isolated and lost. Additionally, multiple roads had been damaged. Local resources had been stretched to the max, thus the involvement of the National Guard and the Air Force Auxiliary.
The District’s role was largely logistical during the exercise. “Operation Pave Hawk was quite an experience with so many organizations participating,” said Santa Rosa Park Ranger Paul Sanchez. “My involvement with the mission was to give a ‘USACE Briefing’ on the mock exercise.”
“Our goals continue to be a multi-recreation facility for the public with the added value of working with the military and local search and rescue organizations to complete annual training,” said Cordova. He added that this is the third year of the District’s involvement in this type of training exercise.
“Operation Pave Hawk was a unique situation where different agencies were able to train together and work together in an emergency situation. It gave everyone the chance to experience new training,” said Sanchez.