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NEWS | Jan. 25, 2017

Kentucky MEDEVAC trains for water rescue

By Sgt. Alexa Becerra 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Their training consisted of flood and swift-water rescue techniques, and their AT was the culminating event after a year’s worth of training with the BERT.

“In September of 2015 we started attending portions of the MEDEVACs weekend drills and that is where we would practice communications, and they would carry out incident command,” said Maj. Steve Proffitt, Training coordinator for the Jessamine County Fire District. “We spent a weekend with them in March taking their crew chiefs and paramedics to the swift water technician rescue level and the next drill is when we started doing roof operations.”

According to Proffitt, this training will help the MEDEVAC present a resource to Emergency Management for flood and swift water emergencies. This joint-organization effort also gave the MEDEVAC the opportunity to train with first-emergency responders from three counties.

“The Jessamine County Fire district, the City of Nicholasville Fire Department, and the Lexington Fire Department all had key players in developing this training,” said Proffitt.

Although this training is the first of its kind in Kentucky, other states have similar training cooperation.

“We modeled our program after a similar program the North Carolina National Guard has in place,” said Staff Sergeant Jeremy Lowe, Senior Flight Medic and Non-Rated Flight Instructor assigned to the MEDEVAC. “I asked them a lot of questions, and after over a year of planning we actually started training.”

Lowe, who prior to joining the MEDEVAC was a full-time firefighter at the Nicholasville Fire Department, had a vital role in developing this training. His first-responder background aided him in noticing some deficiencies the MEDEVAC had while conducting stateside search and rescue missions.

“We were good at hoist in a combat aspect, but we did not know how to work with civilian agencies, conduct rooftop rescues or any kind of water rescue,” said Lowe. “This training enhances the already existing rescue assets we have.”

This mission also falls directly in line with the MEDEVAC’s Army Combat Mission, said Lowe. Many of the moving pieces that the unit would exercise in a wartime environment were exercised during this civilian, stateside mission.

“In these two weeks, we exercised theater operation center, refueling, rescue hoist operations along with flying and landing aircraft,” said Lowe. “We also performed maintenance, practiced communication and went expeditionary to two sites.”

Regardless of Military Occupational Specialty, all unit personnel received swift water awareness training.

“The swift water awareness training consisted of HAZMAT awareness, we learned ropes, knots, anchors and practical application for water rescue techniques,” said Captain Jessica Tharp, commander of the MEDEVAC unit. “Also, all of our medics and some of our crew chiefs are now certified swift water technicians. Their training was more elaborate and in depth which makes sense because they will be the rescuers on the end of the hoist.”

The unit, in conjunction with the BERT, trained in National Incident Management System, said Tharp. NIMS is a standardized resource management procedures for coordination among different jurisdictions and organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“It is one of the few times a Kentucky Guard unit has not only learned NIMS in theory, but used it in practical application.

Overall, all the Soldiers in the unit walked away from AT having learned something beyond their MOS,” said Tharp. “Something that may possibly save their lives, and the lives of others, one day.”

Tharp also expressed her gratitude for the hardworking members of the BERT.

“Their professionalism and dedication to their knowledge and assets will forever be remembered,” said Tharp. “We look forward to our continued work together over the next year to refine our skills.”

After over a year of training and planning, the close working relationship between the BERT and the MEDEVAC was evident.

“We couldn’t have had a better group of civilians teaching us, and each person brought a certain bit of technical expertise,” said Lowe. “They completely integrated with us, and being able to see the difference from the first day that we sat in a classroom together about a year ago to the last day when we conducted the final training exercise was amazing.”

The main goal of this units’ training: to save lives.

“If this training, and all the time it took to make it happen, saves at least one life then that’s all that matters,” said Lowe. “It was completely worth it.”

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