Local Media Receive Task Force Training

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Members of the local media were given an all-day crash course of training with Texas Task Force 1 Thursday. In the future, the rescue team hopes to embed the media as they deploy on these live-saving missions.

It certainly was no simple day at Lake Bryan. There's no relaxation when it comes to training for deployment with Texas Task Force 1.

"It's a key for us to partner with the media, especially here in the local community, to not only tell our stories about how Texas Task Force 1 is saving lives, but also to give the people here in the community an opportunity to see the images and hear the stories that no one else can see," said Jason Cook, the communications director for the Texas Engineering Extension Service.

So Thursday, training scenarios at Lake Bryan and Disaster City for the media were meant to be the first tug on a curtain to even further unveil Texas Task Force 1's role in disasters, a tug long talked about, now underway.

"With those things, we tried, at least, to provide an introspect, and we hope it's been well worth it," said Bob McKee, the director of the task force.

To hammer home the enormous job the urban search and rescuers have, the all-day display included all aspects of their jobs, including the rubble piles they have to cut and burn through, and the devices used to hear, see and save lives.

During Hurricane Katrina, FEMA pulled the plug on media access with rescue teams like Texas's. It's a move the state's task force says was a poor one, because it pushed the cameras to places like the chaotic Superdome, and not to the most heroic of efforts.

"The media covered the stories they could get to," Cook said. "They couldn't get into the heart of downtown New Orleans, where Texas Task Force 1 was saving thousands of lives."

"There are a number of incredible stories that often get missed because of the access issue," McKee said. "If we can work together, train together, we'll appreciate each other's positions, and a true story will be told."

From News 3, anchor Crystal Galny, meteorologist Shane Motley, photographer Craig Weaver, production manager Trey Holt and this reporter participated in the activities.

"Just from the stories that we've heard today, these situations happen all the time where people get in danger," Motley said. "These situations do make you appreciate the dangers that are out there."

Of course, the site of professionals from another field trying their hand at some very different activities provided a few laughs.

"I would put it this way," Cook laughed, "we're not on a scouting mission today."

"We're instructors," added McKee. "We've been there. It just tells us we appreciate all the energy and enthusiasm that you've all shown."

And future efforts in real-life situations could mean bigger and better stories for people to see.

Texas Task Force was has been around for around a decade, and has responded to everything from last year's hurricanes to the Oklahoma City bombing and 9-11.