U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, congratulated, presented letters of commendation and spent about 45 minutes hearing the experiences of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point-affiliated paramedics, who volunteered to travel to New Jersey to assist in Superstorm Sandy relief operations.
“Would you do it again?” Visclosky asked the group at one point, receiving a resounding reply of, “Absolutely, we learned a lot.”
“Whatever we were asked to do, we carried out with 100 percent efficiency and teamwork. The locals were impressed with how we performed any mission given,” said Tom Bettenhausen, Superior Ambulance Service-Indiana operations manager, who also serves with Crown Point Fire and Rescue and is Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 Emergency Medical Services Task Force leader.
As such, Bettenhausen headed the local contingent, which consisted of four ambulances, three of which were staffed by community-based medics who are under the medical direction of Franciscan St. Anthony Health.
The hospital’s EMS Academy trains the majority of emergency medical technicians and paramedics in south Lake County.
Besides Bettenhausen, the St. Anthony-affiliated team honored included:
* Eric Schmitt, Mark Baumgardner and John Sarver, Crown Point Fire and Rescue.
* Eric Eshelman, Lakes of the Four Seasons Fire Department.
* Brian Beach and Don Strom, St. John Fire Department.
Also on hand were Superior Ambulance medics Joseph O’Parka and Dale Waters.
The group was among those from Indiana’s 10 Homeland Security districts that responded to a nationwide request from New Jersey officials for resources, as the storm was bearing down on the area.
More than 30 ambulances from Indiana were part of the overall team, which departed early on a Sunday morning and returned early on the following Friday.
The local group assisted personnel in Brick Township, mostly with rescue and evacuation efforts that were needed, following the surge of ocean water that inundated the area for miles inland. The medics also provided backup for 911 calls.
Visclosky spoke of his respect for what the group accomplished.
“I am grateful for their services, not only to our local community, but for their dedication to help others in our great country.”
In the letters, he told the medics they should be proud of the support they offered victims and fellow first-responders, calling their volunteerism inspirational and commendable.