After multiple deployments to Afghanistan, and in preparation for a fourth deployment, the 501st Infantry Regiment (Airborne) revised their risk assessment based on their new mission profile. During that process, operating in remote areas with steep terrain became a growing concern. While based in Alaska, the unit deploying wanted to ensure that medical and rescue staff were able to perform in challenging terrain and provide medical care for an extended period of time.
Mission commanders and members of the medical support element and combat field hospital staff approached Remote Medical International to develop a custom course to address this risk and close the training gap. Based on the risk assessment, the 501st requested that RMI create a course that incorporated advanced medical skills, care in the extended setting, and high angle rope rescue operations in hostile environments.
Following meetings with the 501st to clearly identify requirements, RMI assembled a team of experts with backgrounds in mountain rescue, military operations in the area, and Special Operations. RMI also assigned its Medical Director, Dr. David Townes—the former Medical Director of Yosemite Search and Rescue—to the project.
Collaborating with 501st commanders and senior medical staff, RMI created a two week course focused first on a rapid rope rescue solution that tested and demanded competency from its trainees. RMI recruited Petzl, a leading rope rescue product manufacturer, to create a very simple rapid extrication system that could be utilized under stress.
Within three months, RMI delivered a hands-on course in the mountains of Alaska. With a simple rescue system, short lectures, and scenario-based training, RMI Instructors worked with over sixty 501st students to develop and strengthen advanced medical skills while adding rope rescue capabilities through as many real-life scenarios (including a helicopter hoist unit) as possible. Following the course, RMI outfitted the unit with additional medical equipment and rope rescue systems based on the feedback and experience of the two-week training.