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K9 teams train on Lake Lanier
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K9 teams from across Georgia searched through thick brush, along the shoreline and from boats on Lake Lanier April 11 in a training exercise at Thompson Creek Park.

Trained in search and rescue, the furry officers and their handlers make up the State of Georgia Body Recovery Team, a collaborative unit of volunteers assigned with the mission of the recovery and identification of human remains resulting from a mass fatality incident.

"We have two boats on the water working and then we have land searches, along the edge of the water," said Dawson County Emergency Services Deputy Chief Tim Satterfield, who joined the team in the summer of 2010.

Working as an extension of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security, the team was one of the first state response units in the United States created for the sole purpose of body recovery and identification.

"We're on call 24/7 for anything the GBI requests our help on," said K9 Coordinator Richard Price.

Consisting of over 100 personnel ready to respond to an incident, the group formed in 2002 as a result of the 1994 flood that disinterred over 400 caskets with human remains from a cemetery in Albany and the 2002 Tri-State Crematory investigation where over 300 human remains were recovered.

"It was initially formed for mass casualties," he said.

The team now also responds to request for help on homicides, missing person cases and other crimes involving the search of a body.