By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsSeptember 28, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Suspended 30-60 feet off the ground thanks to a malfunctioning hoist system is no time for students at the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine to be unsure if someone will be able to rescue them.
So, officials at the school and the Fort Rucker Fire Department teamed up for a first-ever hoist rescue training session Sept. 24 at the school's 75-foot tower to prove to future students, and themselves, that they can rescue anyone who may find themselves left hanging during hoist training, according to Maj. Genna Speed, director, USASAM En Route Care Branch director.
"You can't assume, one, that local emergency services and the fire department even know where you're at, and two, know how to perform a rescue in the event of a hoist malfunction," she said. "So, to truly know that our SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) meets the standards and expectations for safety, we wanted to run through and make sure that the fire department could do the things that we were depending on them to do."
With cadre members playing the victims at three different sections of the tower, the fire department sprang into action by conducting high-angle rescues with its ladder truck, and also by rappelling down, removing the victim from the school's hoist system and attaching them into their own system.
And while the general goals were clear, it was not a paint-by-numbers training session, according to Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Brown, NCO in charge of the USASAM En Route Care Branch.
"We've never done this before, so there aren't step-by-step procedures," he said. "Since this is the first time that we're going to do it together, after each iteration we're going to come back and do an AAR (after-action report) and we're going to see the shortcomings, or what we did right and continue forward. There are no set parameters or procedures for this, this is us trying to run through it and actually make our own procedures for any kinds of future instances that we have."
And the fire department was happy to oblige, according to Fort Rucker FD Lt. Wade "Best" Danford, adding that department personnel were eager to try out the rescue skills they already had at a facility they didn't have experience with.
"We can do such training on our own training grounds, but this gives us a chance to do something outside of our box and improvise as we go," Danford said. "It presents a different scenario we can work with and get better with."
"Hopefully, at the end of the day, when they (USASAM officials) leave here, they won't be worried about what will happen when we get down here -- they'll know what to expect from us and know that we have them covered," he added.
That hope was realized, according to Speed.
"The training event was a great success," she said. "During this time we were able to address potential challenges and concerns associated with emergency hoist rescue operations. I am fully confident that the highly skilled team members of the fire department will be able to execute rescue operations to ensure the safety of all personnel in the event of a hoist emergency. We are in good hands."
Those good hands will eventually extend to benefit Soldiers in the field thanks to better-trained medics who benefit from the safe environment provided in USASAM's hoist training, Speed said, adding that hoist training is critical in developing Above the Best flight paramedics.
"Being able to conduct tower hoist operations is integral to developing the skillset they need to make an impact on our warfighters' lives. So, when they graduate from this course, they have at least been exposed to what hoist ops entail, so they can conduct that exercise safely and effectively in their units."