Local Air Force Sgt. participates in water rescue drill

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Lee Wickenhauser

133rd Air National Guard Fire Fighter, Public Affairs NCOIC

While many people were battling the terrible traffic conditions and trying to stay warm on Saturday, Feb. 27, 25 fire fighters from the 133rd Air National Guard fire department and seven members of the White Bear Lake fire department were taking a dip in the icy cold waters of Goose Lake in White Bear Lake.

The two fire departments combined efforts and resources in a joint training exercise to familiarize each department’s firefighters with cold water rescue and recovery missions.

“This is some of the best training I have participated in since I joined the Air Force” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Edward Raati, who has been in the Air Force for three years and also serves on his local volunteer fire department in Cambridge.

The air temperature was about 5 degrees and the water temp was just above freezing creating a great condition for the training event. The firefighters trained in the frigid water using Mustang cold water immersion suits as they practiced rescue techniques.

“With the suits on it felt like swimming in the summer time, only warmer” Raati said.

water rescue
Air Force Staff Sgt. Edward Raati, who also volunteers on the Cambridge Fire Department, paddles backwards through the ice and water while wearing a Mustang cold water immersion suit in the icy waters of Goose Lake in White Bear Lake. - Photo by Jeremiah Wickenhauser

The training started with the firefighters familiarizing themselves with the Mustang suits by jumping into the ice and water and swimming around. After learning how to maneuver in the suits the firefighters practiced climbing out of the water using ice picks. Then the firefighters purposely walked out onto thin ice to break through while wearing the Mustang suits so they would know the feeling if it ever happened in real life. Finally the fire fighters took turns practicing to rescue each other from the water.

“The training was very realistic. We had great conditions,” said Technical Sgt. David Shepherd, a fire fighter with the 133rd Fire Department for the last 14 years and a St. Paul firefighter. “It was good we had ice we could break through.”

“The training went very well,” said Master Sgt. Alex Stuart, a captain with the White Bear Lake fire department and an 11 year veteran with the Minnesota Air National Guard.

Stuart spearheaded the joint training mission and said that he “hopes to do more joint training in the summer.”