Georgia State Defense Force holds disaster training in Macon

Search and rescue demonstration held during disaster training. Claudia Coco / WGXA News

MACON, Ga -- The Georgia State Defense Force is a state funded branch of a volunteer army. Saturday they held disaster training with the help of Macon-Bibb Emergency Management Agency to prepare for future disasters.

The 5th Brigade for the defense force covers the middle band of the state. Lieutenant Brice Hughes said it's important to be prepared for when a real disaster hits, so today they went through a couple of different scenarios.

"We were simulating finding some lost hikers, and an injured fisherman," Hughes said.

They're sharpening their skills they learned in the field during Hurricane Matthew, the tornadoes last spring, and Tropical Storm Irma. He said there's a balance between trying to be thorough and acting fast.

"You want to think about what it would be like if it was a real world scenario, and there's an injured person out there that you've got to find," Hughes said.

Lieutenant Hughes has never been in a search and rescue situation, so he's happy to have had the training.

"Any practice you can get before you're thrown head-long into something, is going to better than having none at all," said Hughes.

Specialist Kerry Hatcher says training with the Macon-Bibb Emergency Management Agency is invaluable.

"It builds trust and relationships across organizations," Hatcher said.

He said it will make their disaster operations more efficient. He also said they're often confused with the National Guard, but unlike the National Guard the Georgia State Defense Force is purely dedicated to Georgia.

"We can't be federalized like the National Guard, and sent overseas. So we're funded entirely through the state, but we're not paid," said Hatcher.

Hatcher said since they donate their time it allows Georgia to get help to those in need that much faster.

"Since we're unpaid, the state has the ability to dispatch us at a moment's notice," Hatcher said.

The Georgia State Defense Force gets the same training as the National Guard. They can also trace their history back to the Revolutionary war.

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