Elite Special Task Force – Greece October 2013

December 30, 2013 in U.S.A.R.

Someone once said that ‘those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes; they just don’t know where to look’ (Ronald Regan, First Inaugural Address, 20 Jan 1981).

More than 30 years later, Regan’s words are proven true as we speak. For the seven members of the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) who made it to Greece for another training adventure, this was truly a case of heroes in the making, and our members are extremely proud to have been part of this.

Towards the end of October 2013, the EFRU was invited to partake in the 1st International Training Conference of Elite Special Task Force which took place in Athens, Greece. The conference, as the name implies, was aimed at bringing together rescue teams from different countries and to provide a common platform for training, sharing of information, discussions and rescue simulations. This week-long event saw the participation of nine rescue teams from six European countries: Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Turkey, Italy and Malta. The Maltese contingent, made up entirely of EFRU volunteers, worked alongside the Greek EP.OM.E.A. Aigaleo, EP.OM.E.A. Thessaloniki, EP.OM.E.A. Sintiki, and EP.OM.E.A. Velou Vocha, the Larnaca Rescue Team of Cyprus, the Serbian Rescue Team, the Turkish AFAD and the Italian Gruppo Soccorsi Speciali Edelweiss, among other local entities.

The EFRU participated mostly in the concluding sessions, spread over two days of thorough training. One particular session focused entirely on water rescue and included practical and theoretical exercises related to life-saving techniques in water. This session saw our volunteers shed their uniforms and practice water rescue skills in several simulated scenarios, particularly those involving a panicking subject and an unconscious casualty. The principal training session consisted of a large-scale, multifold U.S.A.R. exercise. The scenario presented an earthquake simulation and involved live casualties trapped beneath building debris and within overturned vehicles and who had to be safely extracted by the operating rescue teams. Methods of access and extraction varied from vertical penetration to an aerial ropeway and from abseiling to accompanied horizontal recovery.  In all cases, the participating teams had to administer first aid on site and deliver the casualties to the triage area just outside the disaster zone.

Our volunteers performed brilliantly and their satisfied faces in the photos that followed bear unparalleled testimony to the pride and satisfaction that they felt upon successfully completing the tasks assigned to them. Through this exercise, the EFRU continued to consolidate its foreign relations and most importantly, to demonstrate the formidability of the team. The participants are, to this date, still receiving very positive feedback on various aspects of their operation.  While this owes to the efficiency of the team in general, one cannot but praise our leaders for giving the team the assets that it has today.  This has been an excellent opportunity for the EFRU volunteers to fly the Maltese flag away from our shores and this is just what they did: they have shown everyone how our little country not only has a big heart, but also has its fair share of heroes in the making.

That being said, our members couldn’t let this adventure come to an end without sealing it with a generous dose of fun and food. The sun-kissed hills of Athens provided the perfect setting for that, with members of the Greek team, particularly the leaders of the organising entity – EP.OM.E.A Aigaleo – ensuring that our members were spoiled with the best tastes and hints of Greece.  Special thanks go to George Roum and Maria Koul for devoting large chunks of their precious time to the enjoyment of the EFRU contingent!

The spare time that our members had after the closing of the conference, was jam-packed with sight-seeing excursions, shopping, metro trips and never-ending meals; which were the cause of big smiles and a couple of extra kilos on their way back home. What stood out about the EFRU team however, as they descended from the plane and made their way out of the Maltese airport, was the kindred spirit that each of them share and that makes the EFRU the great, unified team that it is.

Iona Muscat
EFRU Volunteer