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Army Reservist uses military training to help those affected by Turkey earthquake

An Army reservist from Bath has been telling how his military training assisted him and his team searching for people trapped following the earthquake in Turkey.

Rob, an Army reservist with 43 Signal Squadron (39 Signal Regiment) based in Bristol, deployed within hours of the country suffering the huge tremor on 6 February.

Rob is a Team Leader with the charity, Search And Rescue Assistance In Disasters (SARAID), comprised of emergency managers and planners, engineers and paramedics and includes specialists in rope rescue, collapsed building rescue and technical search. The charity is made up of volunteer members who all come from a wide range of backgrounds.

Rob explains his initial impressions when he first saw the devastation following the earthquake in the south of the country that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale:

“The city of Kahramanmaras had been blown apart. It was like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. People were now homeless, living outside and trying to keep warm in the freezing temperatures. This urban sprawl, once made up of apartment buildings was now reduced to piles of bricks with many people now buried beneath the rubble of each structure. We quickly realised the enormity of the work we had to do”

There is no difference between the military and this type of work apart from the fact that I’m not carrying a weapon. Everything the Army has taught me I am using here Rob Davis SARAID Volunteer and Army Reservist

With numbers constantly rising, the loss of life through this disaster quickly reached well over 40,000. An estimated 80,000 people have been hospitalised and many more are unaccounted for. Around 1 million people are now living in tents and temporary shelters with more than 345,000 apartments having been reduced to rubble.

Rob joined the Army Reserve nearly five years ago after a long and successful career in the Fire Service. As he explains, there was always an itch that needed scratching:

“My Dad and Father-in-law were both Signallers in the Army and I’ve always appreciated and admired what the Armed Forces have done and continue to do. So, I thought I would follow in their footsteps and look for a Signal Squadron to join. They weren’t phased by me being a bit of an older bloke at all. They put me through my paces at Pirbright which I thoroughly enjoyed and thought this is a nice outlet of continuing my life in a uniform.”

Rob talks of the initial assistance he and his team from SARAID provided once on the ground in Turkey:

“It takes time but we narrow our search from a large area down to specific structures. You then end up with the priority buildings of interest and then start deploying search and rescue dogs, and technical search equipment including sensitive listening devices. We’ll call for complete silence and listen for a reply. This painstaking work quickly paid off as we rescued someone using this method on the second night we were there.”

I’ll never forget the names and faces of the mother and her six-year-old daughter that we rescued or the young girl we found the following night. You will always remember those people. Rob Davis SARAID Volunteer and Army Reservist

And he adds, his military training as a reservist has proved invaluable with his work with SARAID:

“There is no difference between the military and this type of work apart from the fact that I’m not carrying a weapon. Everything the Army has taught me I am using here; resilience, motivation, thinking things through, looking after yourself, looking after others. Soldiering skills translate massively over to what I do working in disaster response.”

Back home in the UK and to the home comforts we all take for granted, Rob reflects on the work he and his SARAID colleagues carried out in Turkey. He recalls just two of the moments that will remain with him for many years to come:

“In the thick of the collapsed city local people would ask us for our help looking for their loved ones in the fallen buildings. I’ll never forget the names and faces of the mother and her six-year-old daughter that we rescued or the young girl we found the following night. You will always remember those people.”