INDIAHOMA, Oklahoma -- Oklahomans are no strangers to emergency situations, and they're willing to travel to prove it.
T.J. Lowder and John Hawkins are forestry technicians at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. They're accustomed to performing prescribed burns and even mountain rescue, but a few weeks ago their mission changed to rescuing birds in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our mission was to really identify areas where there were large groups of birds," said Lowder. "And if you come upon any oiled or dead birds to retrieve them and get the back to Fort Jackson, they were doing all the cleanup there."
During two weeks of 15 hour days, Lowder and Hawkins were able to talk at length with local boat operators, and gained a kind of admiration for them.
"Their local knowledge of weather patterns and just knowing the water there is priceless," said Lowder. "I think they feel like they're on a mission along with us."
And even though Lowder has been in many different kinds of first responder situations, this mission held a unique challenge for him.
"I wasn't expecting to be on water 100 percent of the time," said Lowder. "You're on a barge at night, and you're on a boat during the day."
Lowder though, did find a way around that.
"We would boat up to islands and just canvas the islands just so we could get on the ground and walk."
But despite not having his "sea legs," Lowder's already talking about returning to the Gulf soon.
"There's just a need for people down there," said Lowder. "Service employees, volunteers, but also service employees that have been trained in some of the emergency response areas."
7401 N. Kelley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
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