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Community partnerships highlight heroes and preparedness

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes numerous behind-the-scenes personnel from varying community organizations coming together, forging partnerships, to foster preparedness.

The Cheyenne Veterans Administration Medical Center recently hosted a Hero Appreciation event, which saw hundreds of community members come out to support community organizations filled with local heroes, including first responders, educators, clergy and military members.

“Our community is very blessed with some great people and awesome resources that are designed to help folks get through the worst of crises. In times of turmoil, knowing who our unsung heroes are and what services they provide within the community, allows us to not only build relationships, but also to work more efficiently to maximize our beneficial efforts,” said Sam House, public affairs officer for the Cheyenne VAMC.

“We held this event because recognizing our community heroes is extremely important. Our teachers and clergy are often the first to find out about family problems, while our emergency services personnel often work through the aftermath or a crisis with assistance from other entities such as the military.”

One such military entity, the Wyoming National Guard’s 84th Civil Support Team, was one of the dozens of organizations present to support the event. The 84th CST exists, in part, to support civil authorities at a variety of incident sites that might include chemical, biological or nuclear components.

“The nature of our job is to support local first responders in whatever capacity is needed and within our mission scope,” said 1st Lt. Sarah Brewer, a nuclear medical science officer with the unit. “Fostering community relationships allows for a clear understanding of how we all fit into one big picture. Part of what makes our team unique is that golden rule that we always work for a first responder.”

Throughout the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, 2015, and will end Sept. 30, the CST has responded to 13 incidents, had 11 stand by missions and nine assists, including supporting events such as the National High School Finals Rodeo and University of Wyoming football games.

“The immense skill set (unit members) bring to the table assists local responders, allowing us to plug into the local response structure seamlessly,” said Lt. Col. Holly Shenefelt, 84th CST commander.

1st Lt. Sarah Brewer, nuclear medical science officer with the 84th Civil Support Team, Wyoming National Guard, talks with a community member Sept. 17, 2016 at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center during the inaugural Hero Appreciation event. The event served to bring together heroes from the community to include educators, first responders and military members, in order to thank them for their service while allowing them to serve the community and communicate their missions and capabilities (Wyoming Air National Guard photo by Capt. Megan Hoffmann)
1st Lt. Sarah Brewer, nuclear medical science officer with the 84th Civil Support Team, Wyoming National Guard, talks with a community member Sept. 17, 2016 at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center during the inaugural Hero Appreciation event. The event served to bring together heroes from the community to include educators, first responders and military members, in order to thank them for their service while allowing them to serve the community and communicate their missions and capabilities (Wyoming Air National Guard photo by Capt. Megan Hoffmann)

However, the CST isn’t the only Wyoming Military Department entity that supports the community in various emergency preparedness endeavors. The Counter Drug program works hand-in-hand with various civilian agencies throughout Wyoming to combat the manufacturing, importing and distribution of illicit drugs; the Civil Air Patrol serves in a number of statewide search and rescue missions; Wyoming Army and Air National Guard aviation units field missions to include fire suppression, extracting stranded or lost persons from austere locations, and air dropping supplies and personnel.

It’s never just one person, one organization or one partnership that serves to facilitate emergency preparedness across Wyoming communities. It takes numerous civilian and military agencies, partnering together, to make our communities and state safe, secure and ready for whatever they may face.

“Any sort of tragic event doesn’t end at the time the event ends, and the residual effects may persist for quite some time. Our unsung heroes are the ones who put in extra hours and behind-the-scenes work to build our communities back up,” said Brewer.