FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- (August 10, 2012) "When a medevac launches to recover a casualty, seconds count, which makes expertise in the tools of life saving a must," said Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Grove, C Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), 16th Combat Aviation Brigade (Alaska).

It was for that reason the unit held a training exercise Friday to familiarize both new and experienced Soldiers with an aspect of the medical evacuation process they may not have been exposed to before - vehicle extrication.

Sgt. William Ressler, a C Company crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter who recently deployed with the unit, organized the training. He said about 30 people participated, with the priority being to keep the rescuer safe above anything else.

He thinks the opportunity to have a bit of hands-on time was of much more value to the Soldiers than hours of classroom time.

The training was split between the classroom and hands-on use of equipment like the cutter/spreader (also known as the jaws of life), a K-12 rotary saw and a hydraulic spreader bar.

The scenarios included include dismantling of vehicles to obtain access to the
casualty using various methods and using the extrication tools available to the
medical evacuation crews when the mission dictates.

"I liked it because Soldiers like me who have not used extrication equipment before got a chance to use all the equipment and get hands-on" said Spc. Jordan Pedroza, C/1-52nd, 16th CAB.

"It is nice to familiarize yourself with the equipment you could possibly be using," she said.

Pedroza, a flight medic with the unit, had never used any of these tools before. It taught her to learn ways to get to a patient if they could not be just pulled out.

Cadet Peter Schlatter of West Point was involved in the exercise as part of an exchange program. He was glad that every Soldier at one point or another got to participate.

Before the exercise was even over, the unit was making plans for the next one. Some of the suggestions for expansion and improvement included more vehicles, medical dummies and the use of a nine-line scenario. But even with room for improvement, almost everyone agreed that overall the training had been done well, much had been learned and that it was a morale booster.