38th RQS perform ‘elevated’ training
By Airman Eric Schloeffel, 347th Resceu Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 24, 2006
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Nineteen Airmen from the 38th Rescue Squadron, here, took their training to new heights during a high-altitude combat search and rescue exercise in Butte, Mont., from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1.
Thirteen pararescuemen, three parachute packers, one survival evasion resistance and escape specialist, one flight doctor and one medical technician parachuted out of a 71st RQS C-130P/N into the mountainous terrain.
“Our mission was to conduct training in these environments to teach the Airmen how different it is to operate in high altitudes rather than sea-level,” said Master Sgt. Adam Pope, 38th Rescue Squadron assistant superintendent. “It was definitely an eye-opener for many of the new Airmen.”
The training consisted of using different techniques to deal with mountain conditions while faced with search and rescue scenarios. It included trekking across the snow-covered peaks with snow shoes, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowmobiling.
“We covered the whole gamut of possibilities pararescuemen might have to employ when rescuing a survivor,” said Sergeant Pope. “Through learning how to use these modes of travel, we learn how to do the mission effectively and efficiently.”
During the training, the Airmen endured temperatures of 10 below zero combined with 50 mph wind and blowing snow. They ate cold weather meals, ready-to-eat, and slept in two-person igloos.
Breathing also became more difficult at elevations above 10,000 feet, but the pararescuemen acclimated quickly because of their intense physical training regimen, said Senior Airman Mark Houghton, 38th RQS pararescuemen.
“We often experienced fatigue more easily than normal from doing basic land movements,” said Airman Houghton. “Not having high oxygen saturation in your blood is what causes fatigue. But since we maintain a high-level of fitness, it’s a lot easier to deal with.”
Conditions in a mineshaft, another part of the training, also provided challenges for the Airmen. The training simulated rescuing a survivor from a mine 400 feet beneath the surface.
“(In the mineshaft) not only did they have to fight the altitude of 6,000 feet, they also had to worry about oxygen concentrations and other atmospheric considerations,” said Sergeant Pope. “Adding all those different variables made it more challenging (than a routine rescue scenario). We perform the mineshaft training because of the possibility of our pararescuemen having to go into mines in foreign countries or the United States to (save lives).”
The training provided valuable lessons and gave younger pararescuemen their first look at how to operate in the unique environment.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been involved in high-altitude cold-weather training,” said Airman Houghton, a first-year pararescuemen. “I learned better ways to handle our ropes, different ways to package and carry a patient, and how to perform confined space rescues. We also learned about gases in a mine shaft that could be fatal.”
Operating in this environment can help the 38th RQS Airmen while in deployment settings, which was the overall purpose for the two-week excursion into the extreme environment, said Tech. Sgt. Jay Lane, 38th RQS standard evaluations.
“Training like this is very important to the 38th RQS,” he said. “It ensures all of our Airmen are prepared to deploy to a cold weather, high-altitude environment, which we might encounter in the future.”