Military News

Friday, May 29, 2015

JBLM and NPS conduct mountain rescue training

by Staff Sgt. Tim Chacon
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/29/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash -- The close proximity and beauty of Mount Rainier often hides its difficulty and dangers for people living in the Puget Sound. Experienced and non-experienced climbers alike at times can find themselves in need of rescue support from the mountain.

This is where the National Parks Service and the DoD team together to help those in need. The NPS typically handles rescues below 10,000 feet and calls on Joint Base Lewis-McChord when the mission is difficult at altitudes above that level.

Army and Air Force from JBLM practiced those types of rescue operations during training, May 15. Soldiers from Bravo Co. 1-214th Aviation Regiment and Special Tactics Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron conducted hoist training to hone their skills for the upcoming climbing season.

"This is a really positive mission where we get to give back to the community," said David McCrumb, 214th AR CH-47 Chinook instructor pilot. "Everybody contributes, the Air Force, Parks and Army Reserve all have a role to play."

Tech. Sgt. Dean Criswell, 22nd Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman, NCOIC of rescue operations, led the training for the Air Force. With 12 years as a tactical rescue specialist and multiple trainings on Mount Rainer, Criswell is well-suited to tackle the difficult scenarios the mountain can present.

"Training is important to be able to work with our Army partners and Parks {counterparts}," said Criswell. "We all bring different aspects to the rescue, and this training helps bring it all together."

Soldiers from the 214th AR flew Criswell and Master Sgt. Kim-Xuan Brewer, 22nd STS tactical air control Airman, into an area of the mountain and lowered them down to the site where they simulated a rescue.

"I am lowered down and then secure myself to the mountain to assess the situation," said Criswell. "As Master Sgt. Brewer is coming down, I am securing an anchor point for him. Then we would tend to the patient as needed and load them on to a litter to be hoisted up to the helicopter."

The process of mountain rescues can be broken down into three steps: going down to the site of the patient, tending to the patient and then hoisting them up. However, a mountainside rescue is anything but basic.

"Every time you go out, there are inherent risks," said Criswell. "There is weather, crevasses, avalanches, ice fall, altitude, a lot of things come into play when you are determining the risk."

A mountain side rescue is not an ideal situation. Criswell offers some advice to help you if you find yourself in need of their assistance.

"A patient should be honest with us about their injuries and not try to hide anything," said Criswell. "Follow all directions and do everything in an expeditious manner."

Like Brewer, the 22nd STS Airmen on the Mount Rainer rescue team are volunteers.

"We currently have three fully-trained rescuers and three more in training," said Criswell. "For me, this is my job as a pararescuemen, but for TAC-Ps like Master Sergeant Brewer, it's not part of his training, he volunteers to put his personnel skillset to use in these rescues."

Brewer was actually one of the Special Tactics Airmen to originally set up this rescue training, using pararescuemen from the 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, Oregon.

"It's great that we are given this opportunity to do this training and this mission," said Brewer. "We are thankful our leadership gives us a chance to use the skills we have to give back to people in our community.

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