In 2018 when I came to the Oregon Air National as a Medical Plans Officer for a small medical disaster response team, I discovered that my new role presented me an opportunity to coordinate and plan a defense support of civil authorities exercise called Pathfinder-Minuteman. I had no prior knowledge of the event--I was only told it was an annual training exercise which provided our team the opportunity to work with civilian community partners. But after two years as the lead planner for the event, I can tell you this; it is so much more.
The annual Pathfinder-Minuteman exercise began in 2008. At that time Oregon Air National Guard Col. Bob Gentry of the 173rd Medical Group in Klamath Falls, Oregon recognized a need for military and civilian partners to train together and exercise their response capabilities. He introduced the idea of medical rapid response teams--trained military medical professionals who could respond alongside their civilian counterparts to provide rapid triage and casualty care in the midst of a major disaster event in Oregon. Through his vision, he established a coalition of state, regional, and national partners; including public, private, and volunteer non-governmental organizations; who have, since then, consistently worked together year after year during the annual Pathfinder-Minuteman training and exercise event in Oregon.
I arrived at my first Pathfinder-Minuteman exercise planning event in 2018 with skepticism and bias. Having been involved in military planning and exercise events for over 15 years, I was accustomed to adequate financial support, pre-ordained training equipment and supplies, and a designated planning team. But what I found at my first Pathfinder-Minuteman planning meeting was no event budget, little to no training supplies or equipment, and a team of inter-agency partners taking time out of their very busy schedules to plan their own training and exercise event between the stresses of maintaining their primary roles and responsibilities within their own organizations. In other words, while this exercise was deemed important, for some it seemed a distraction from “normal” life.
My realization quickly crystalized while I was sitting in that planning meeting--I was surrounded by our community’s best trained, most experienced, and highly skilled medical and response practitioners. All around me were doctors, engineers, fire and rescue, police, hospital staff, and local, state, regional, federal, and volunteer organization leaders who shared a single critical vision--that Oregon needed a well-trained, organized, and inter-connected system of responders who desperately needed to build this network and train together. And through sheer tyranny of will they came together to make that happen; Every. Single. Year. My skepticism faded, as I now felt inspired by their efforts and steadfast determination.
PathFinderEX is born out of this need to support and network through inter-agency cooperation and training to the highest level of skill and experience. Every member of our board of directors brings tremendous real-world experience in planning, participating, and promoting past Pathfinder-Minuteman events. The genesis of PathFinderEX coalesced when our directors came together following the conclusion of the 2019 Pathfinder-Minuteman exercise. Out of this post-event meeting, we asked ourselves two simple questions:
“How do we take this effort and elevate it out of the shadows and into the conscience of our community?”
“How can we make it better and more efficient for the responders who selflessly and often voluntarily give their time and effort to the annual event?”
Finding the answers to these two questions are what PathFinderEX is all about. They also inform our mission; to provide annual high-quality training and exercise events at a great value to our local, state, regional, federal, and volunteer partners. By bringing the community together to support our responders and community volunteer organizations we build a stronger, and prepared community. Our goal at PathFinderEX is to build on the grassroots community-based legacy of Pathfinder-Minuteman here in Oregon, and bring it to communities around the country.
We design our events using a tuition-based model, so organizations can send their team members to our events at a low per-person cost (lodging, meals, and training are covered in the tuition). This low cost is reached through individual and corporate donations, which offset our events’ operating and logistical costs. We also provide online training and direct professional services at low or no cost. We provide attendees a great training venue, while simultaneously freeing up valuable time and resources so they can better focus on being ready for, and protecting their own communities.
We ask that you help us build and strengthen our communities. Your tax-deductible contributions are greatly appreciated.
Please visit www.pathfinderex.org/donate to learn more, or to donate.
Make a difference and join our growing team of emergency preparedness experts: visit www.pathfinderex.org/volunteer to volunteer.
This post was published to the PathFinderEX website on July 6, 2020.