In the last few months I’ve had the honor and pleasure to attend two regional Mine Rescue contests. My take away from both contests could be summed up in one word; love. The obvious choice of words to describe mine rescue teams would be “dedication” and “brotherhood” yet those are still there, but the love of the work and all it encompasses shines bright.
In Winnemucca, the Northern Nevada Mine Rescue Contest brought teams from the region and from southwest Wyoming. Teams encouraged each other, shared equipment with their competitors, and enjoyed some laughs.
There were new team members competing for the first time and long time rescuers brought out of retirement to fill a spot for their team.
As they finished the field problem and doffed their BG4’s, there were red-faced sweaty smiles all around. Hugs, handshakes, encouragement and congratulations after the stopwatch clicked off.
Hats off to Mike Peck and his team for putting on a great event at the Winnemucca Convention Center.
The awards banquet is where you really feel the love. Teams and their families standing in honor of their competitor’s achievements. Not everyone brings home a trophy but everybody wins.
In Northern Idaho, the Central Mine Rescue Contest was more of the same love. A shotgun start to a camaraderie building golf tournament got everyone tuned up for the contest. It was exciting to see new faces and the familiar old guard teaching and encouraging new mine rescuers.
CMR celebrated 100 years; a huge milestone for a mine rescue association that covers Idaho, Washington and Alaska. CMR leader, Danny Peterson, who will be retiring next year, was celebrated for his years of dedication to the industry and craft. No need to worry about the future direction of the association because Peterson leaves a legacy and several well-trained leaders who are experts in mine rescue.
What impressed me most about the miners in CMR, their families and supporters is they all respect and care for each other. Teams from Alaska and Washington look forward to catching up with their friends in Kellogg, Wallace and Mullan Idaho.
The sponsors of these contests are incredibly generous. Their contributions help these teams become better trained for an emergency they hope will never come. Teams throughout the nation are well prepared and the best trained teams in the world due to the dedication of trainers, vendors and sponsors.
One sponsor who supports and shows up at every contest is JENNMAR’s Cindy Phillips. Phillips is highly respected and loved by mine rescuers throughout the West and across the United States. She has had significant influence in mine rescue and in the success of many benchmen. Her tenacity and ability to train with toughness and compassion help miners hone their skills and become better teammates.
Mine rescue is a unique skill requiring extensive training. Regional and National contests provide the additional training these teams need along with the sharing of information from one mine to another which further enhances skills.
It is not for the weak or timid. While others evacuate, mine rescuers go into the mine, in smoke and unsafe conditions to save their fellow miners and recover the mine.
They deserve our support and admiration but most importantly, they deserve the time to train and the most up-to-date mine rescue technology and equipment to be successful. Mine operators can ensure their teams have the best the industry has to offer.
Relied upon to respond to what many hope will never come; mine rescue doesn’t stop at the mine. Most rescuers are volunteer members of local Fire Departments or Ambulance Companies and serve their communities well.
I feel the love these folks have for their teams, their home towns and the mine rescue community as a whole. Go check out a mine rescue contest and you’ll feel it, too.