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Remarks Deputy Assistant Secretary David G. Dye
2005 National Mine Rescue, First Aid, Bench and Preshift Contest
Awards Banquet
Louisville, KY
Sept. 23, 2005

Good evening, and thank you, Ray, for that warm introduction. What an honor and pleasure to be at the 2005 National Mine Rescue, First Aid, Bench and Preshift Contest.

I know that Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao had anticipated being here this evening, because she had such a positive experience two years ago.

However, she was called away by the White House to deal with hurricane matters.

I hope you don't mind me stepping in.

First off, I would like to acknowledge the many people who have made this event run so smoothly, from the dozens of staff members with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, to state mining officials, mine association representatives, mine operators, and, of course, the team members themselves.

Many of you undertook the planning for this contest as soon as the last one was over. The rescue teams, as I understand it, did not skip a beat, either, and continued practicing their drills and refining their skills all year long.

It's difficult for the casual spectator to fully appreciate the depth of coordination that goes into such a complex event. But I know that your professionalism and commitment to mine rescue are what make these competitions so successful year after year.

When one hears the word "rescue" or "rescuer," it conjures up many images, from the devastation at Ground Zero in New York City and at the Pentagon four years ago, to the horrific conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Kristina.

While disasters are physically and emotionally trying, they often bring the best in human nature to the surface as we lend a helping and compassionate hand to their victims.

That helping and compassionate hand was evident four years ago when rescue teams in Alabama pitched in during the recovery of the Jim Walters mine following two devastating explosions.

And again a year later, when hundreds heeded the call in Pennsylvania to help extract nine miners trapped for nearly 4 days 240 feet below ground. America held its breath as that rescue took place.

You mine rescuers carry a double-burden - the knowledge that you are responsible for your safety, as all miners are, and that when disaster strikes, you bear the responsibility of helping your co-workers. We are so proud of all of you for shouldering this duty and doing it so well.

Some of you have fought mine fires, cleared rubble from a cave-in, or battled the power unleashed by an inundation of water. Some of you have lost colleagues in mine accidents.

Some of you have been instrumental in saving the life of a fellow miner.

Your collective experience as coal miners and as mine rescuers has brought you to Louisville this week.

That's because mining is what you do, and it is what you love. This contest is important because it pits your skills against the toughest and most realistic training scenarios we can develop, and it lets you hone those skills in grueling competition.

The winners are not only the teams that take home the prizes, they are the men and women who daily go into the mines knowing that you, their fellow miners, are ready and willing to come to their rescue in the event of an accident or disaster.

They rely on the benchmen, who ensure that rescue equipment is in top working order the first-aid specialists, who are adept at treating injuries and implementing medical procedures at the scene of an accident the preshift examiners, who ensure that conditions are safe before miners embark on a new shift and, of course, the teams of individuals who use their skills and expertise to rescue trapped and injured miners underground.

For all your hard work, your self-sacrifice, and your dedication to mine safety and health, I sincerely thank you.

Good luck and God bless.