GILEAD – Gilead and Bethel firefighters cut through the roof of a car and rescued two teenagers trapped inside last week. It wasn’t an accident and no one was in danger, but local teens in the Young Marines got to see the work firefighters do from the inside.

Gilead Fire Chief Ken Cole and Bethel Fire Chief Jim Young placed two cars together as if they had crashed in the parking lot of the Maine Army National Guard’s Bog Brook training facility, put five teens in the vehicles, then gave their crew an opportunity to rescue the “victims.”

The teens were selected by Young Marines Officer Dave Cobb, who wanted to give those learning to drive or who have just received their driver’s permit an experience they won’t forget when they head out on the roads.

Vienna’s Kymberly Webber, 15, was placed in the front seat of one car. She heard the pops and creaks as the volunteer firefighters cut away the top of the car around her and then pulled her to “safety.”

Both fire departments considered the event a successful training experience for the fire fighters and learning experience for the Young Marines. “We can’t get enough training,” Cole said. The departments have been putting on this demonstration for the Young Marines each summer for the past five years. “This was good experience for us. Each car you take apart is a little different and it is good to practice using the various pieces of equipment so you will be ready in a real situation.”

Webber was one of more than 50 youth from the Farmington and Augusta areas who took part in the week-long Young Marine encampment that wrapped up on Sunday.

The Young Marines gathered for a week of outdoor skill-training, readiness-preparedness initiatives and leadership challenges. The challenges ranged from a land navigation course, rappelling, first-aid training, leadership development and team building.

Special speakers and experts were on hand to help. Marine Corps Reservist Lance Cpl. Corey Bernard of Farmington instructed Young Marines on how to handle the confidence course while SSgt. John Adam Knoblach with the Mountain Infantry Unit of Brewer ensured that the rappelling program ran safely.

“This is excellent,” Knoblach said. “I think the kids had a good time and it was well run by some very competent people.” He expects that many of the youth will develop a lifelong love of climbing because of this experience.

Sen. Susan M. Collins contacted 16 federal agencies to bring in speakers or to provide demonstrations and activities to enhance the program, including NASA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Forest Service, the National Weather Service and the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

State and local agencies from across Maine are also chipped in. DARE offices from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office ran a program, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office brought their K-9 team in, and members of the 112th provided mobile medical training.

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