Coal Age

DEC 2017

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26 www.coalage.com December 2017 mine rescue Virginia Metallurgical Coal Team Wins MSHA National Rescue Contest Teamwork, preparations yield perfect performance under pressure from tenured crew by jesse morton, technical writer The win streak went back to May. Confidence was high. Yet the pressure was on, the competi- tion was the best in the country, and the title was on the line. And despite all that, Wellmore Energy Co.'s Red Team delivered its second technically perfect performance in two days, winning nationals and taking the big trophy home to Big Rock, Virginia. Team Captain Shannon Moore, scoop operator, attributed the victory to dedica- tion and teamwork. "With the difficulty of it, you've got to work as a team, and if one knows what the other is doing, then you've got seconds on top of people, which allows you to finish," he said. The result seemed a likelihood more than a month out. By the time of the Mine Health and Safety Administration's (MSHA) 2017 National Mine Rescue Com- petition, held in mid-September in Beck- ley, West Virginia, Wellmore had won six straight competitions in as many months, half of which were two-day contests. Those victories paled in comparison to the very idea of taking nationals, Will Al- tizer, mine rescue trainer, said. "It is all you think about, all you talk about," he said. "It is the holy grail." Accordingly, in the run- up, the team practiced with religious zeal, Moore said. "You've got to have everybody want to be perfect," he said. That the team had the potential to take the title became obvious when it formed in early 2016, Altizer said. "Wellmore used to have two mine rescue teams, and they went down to one mine rescue team be- cause the state team picked up coverage for the other team," Altizer said. "We kind of combined the best of two teams and put them together and that really helped, hav- ing one solid group of guys put together." Solid is too modest an adjective, ac- cording to Brett Childress, director of safe- ty. "Our team is made up of experienced coal miners, from foremen to equipment operators," he said. "All of these guys are not only the best at this, they are the best at their jobs." Last year was a building year, accord- ing to Altizer. "It took 2016 to get the guys to gel and then they started rolling," he said. "Once they started working together, and started jibing, everything started to come together." This year, the work started to pay off, Altizer said. "The first contest they had this year they got second place." After that, the victories mounted, building both confi- dence and expectations. "We kept gelling together and things kept getting better and better, and the teamwork kept getting better," Moore said. Meanwhile, they kept repeatedly best- ing top rivals, Altizer said. "We had compet- ed against the best, all year, good teams." Things culminated in early August with a win at the Virginia Mining Institute Mine Rescue Competition, reputed as one of the toughest contests in the country. "If you go there and compete, you can compete any- where," Altizer said. "One of the best things that helped us prepare was going to the Vir- ginia Mining Institute contest every year." Going into nationals, the team knew they could win but realized awareness of the enormity of a win could zap the steady demeanor and clear thinking they needed to do it. "That is the hardest thing at na- tionals: You want something so bad you get in your own way," Altizer said. "We were a good team that did well because of how we handled the pressure." Monday, September 11, brought the bench and first aid competition. In it, the contestant is presented with a dysfunction- Metinvest United Coal Co. West's Red Team, winner, first place all round. From left to right: Chris Turner, gas man; Todd Ward, 5 man; Ethan Wibel, patient; Terry McClanahan, map man; Sean Kassay, patient; Shannon Moore, captain; William Carroll, command center; Bill Slone, gas man; Caleb Schoeff, briefing officer; Jonathon Berger, patient; and Will Altizer, trainer. (Photo: United Coal)

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