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Green Bay Police undergo water rescue and recovery training

The Green Bay Police Department's dive team is made up of 15 officers who train once a month to rescue and recover items and people from Wisconsin's waterways.
NBC 26 Today anchor MacLeod Hageman suited up to see what divers have to go through before going under water.
Posted at 1:53 PM, Jul 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-13 15:30:06-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Rain or shine, first responders train once a month throughout the year to make sure they can handle any sort of water rescue or recovery emergency.

That includes the simulated training like the one on the Fox River in Green Bay Thursday, where police officers trained to rescue a person from a submerged vehicle.

Green Bay police mark their target while training on the Fox River.

"You really have to have a strong mental mindset," Green Bay Police Lieutenant Steve Mahoney said.

Lieutenant Mahoney and Officer Jeff Stone walked NBC 26 Today anchor MacLeod Hageman through what it takes to suit up before diving to rescue or recover someone or something.

NBC 26 Today anchor MacLeod Hageman learns what divers have to go through before being submerged.

"Let's say you're too heavy, and you've got too much weight or you're getting cold and you want to add some air to your dry suit, just push this button here, and you get more air in there. So, the more air, the more insulation," Officer Stone said.

Lieutenant Mahoney says divers and tenders are trained to handle anything, whether it's operating sonar and communicating with divers through radio or diving into the Fox River with limited visibility.

"Here, when you can only see 18 inches to two feet, you really gotta tell your mind "just relax. As long as you can breathe, as long as you have air, you're okay," Lieutenant Mahoney said.

Green Bay police officers train on the Fox River for a water rescue and recovery simulation.

When time matters most, divers say it takes about five to ten minutes to suit up before getting into the water to save someone in danger.

The gear might look cumbersome, but it's crucial to keeping everyone safe.

"We don't want you to panic. If you panic, it's a bad day. You're not going to be thinking clearly. Just breathe, stay calm and work through whatever issue you have. Whatever issue you have, we have the training to work through the issue. If you panic, there's a possibility of death," Officer Stone said.

Police officers gearing up for water rescue and recovery training efforts.

Both Lieutenant Mahoney and Officer Stone agree that finding their target offers a moment of relief.

"Unfortunately, I remember it's a feeling of joy. Even though you might be recovering a body, and when I say joy, yes it's very tragic that someone may have passed away, but the joy is you know you've completed your mission. You know you're going to be able to bring closure to the family," Lieutenant Mahoney said.

First responders say they're normally deployed three to four times a year, they have about 15 members on their team, and they respond to calls across Wisconsin.

They say, no matter if you're a tender or a diver, each job is just as crucial as the other.