Local veterans form an emergency response team for times of crisis

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - One local emergency response team called the Task Force Guardian is having a fundraiser this weekend. They're still in the early stages of forming their team, but the idea came up back in 2005. When Hurricane Harvey hit, they decided it was time to get to work to make this idea a reality.

"These are people who've been out in outdoors, they've been in the water plenty of times," said Charles Opella of Task Force Guardian SAR-ERT. "I was in the army, I was in the infantry. In the infantry, you're on the front line. You get used to doing something for so long, when I got out, I told my wife I wanted to make a difference."

Opella was also one of the rescuers who went down during Hurricane Harvey, around the time when the veterans realized during times like this, a task force was needed.

"It didn't matter down there. It didn't matter how old you were, didn't matter how young, color, nothing. People were helping people," said Opella.

The group is forming dog teams to assist in rescues.  Once the dog is trained, it will be placed into a national database using a search and rescue number so when they're called, dogs like Ellie will respond.

"To be a search and rescue dog, they have to be able to track scents, unfortunately, we do train the dogs to be able to track blood even. We hate that thought but if somebody is hurt, if we could pick up on that scent, it might be able to get us to them quicker," said Opella.

Whether it be a lost child, a hiker, or an elderly person, no one knows when a tragedy will hit. But if there's one thing these vets know, is they'll be ready to give those second chances that lie ahead.

"The guys who go in the military, yeah we take an oath to defend everybody and keep people safe. Once you go in there, it's a family. When we get out, you want to be part of something and make a difference," said Opella. "That's all these guys want to do."

The fundraiser will be on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Ector County Coliseum Building D from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and they'll have police and fire trucks, raffles, giveaways, plus you can meet the dogs of the search and rescue and see a dog demo. All proceeds will benefit the search and rescue unit.

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