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Home : News : News
NEWS | Nov. 5, 2018

Special Warfare Training Wing wetsuits provide new capabilities to local EMS teams

By Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As the Special Warfare Training Wing keeps pace with the latest equipment, something has to be done with the older gear that can still provide utility.


When the SWTW’s pararescue indoctrination course received new wetsuits, Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Taylor, a 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron pararescue (PJ) indoctrination instructor, utilized his previous experience as a firefighter to recognize a potential life-saving application of the old gear.


“I know that getting gear can sometimes be a challenge for fire departments, especially for smaller, rural units,” Taylor said. “I had the idea that we could repurpose these used wetsuits by offering them to fire departments who have a swift water rescue division.”


So far seven fire departments from across Texas and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol have received donations of wetsuits for their swift water rescue teams. This effort has led to some powerful stories about how these wetsuits are helping local fire departments do their job, Taylor said.


“In Coleman, Texas, they are in the process of setting up a swift water rescue team,” Taylor said. “This area of Texas is currently without this rescue capability, so helping stand up this team has the potential to save lives.”


As a former firefighter and current instructor, Taylor recognizes the impact proper equipment can have both directly and indirectly on emergency operations.


“If you don’t have the proper gear for training then you’re not going to be able to accomplish the mission when the disaster hits,” said Taylor. “You don’t just turn it on and all of a sudden be great in the water. You’re only gonna be as good as the last time you trained, and these suits help get them that time they need in the water.”


Fire and police departments were chosen as recipients of wetsuits due to their relation to the PJ mission, Taylor said.


“PJs specialize in search and recovery dives, swift water rescue, confined space rescue and are trained to shoot, move, and communicate alongside other special operations forces,” Taylor said. “While what we’re doing generally takes place in austere environments, I wanted the suits help with emergency rescue, something I think is incredibly important.”


As a recent recipient of some of the wetsuits, Mario Troncoso, Cibolo Fire Department assistant chief, expressed his gratitude for the donation.


“We’re extremely grateful for these wetsuits,” Troncoso said. “The equipment will benefit our swift water rescue team and give us the capability to work in frigid and swift water emergencies to provide the best possible protection to our citizens.”