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13th MEU

Photo by Pfc. Peter Zrioka

SAR expands capabilities, trains with station firefighters

25 Apr 2007 | Pfc. Zrioka

Marines and sailors of Search and Rescue, working with the civilian station fire department, began the first of several classes and exercises planned to become a continuous training evolution here April 25.

“About four months ago, we got a call for a vehicle that rolled down in a ravine, and ground assets were unable to reach them. We were then called in to execute a technical rescue, to rappel corpsmen and such down to them,” said Master Sgt. Russell Reale, maintenance chief, SAR. “The people involved in the accident did not need extraction, but it got us thinking; ‘what if they did need extraction?’”

With this in mind, the focus of the training was to better understand the methods used in light automotive extraction cases, and doubled as a testing ground for methods that could be used on military aircraft, said Reale.

The secondary aim of the training was to promote and refine inner operations of the three rescue services on base: Search and Rescue, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting and the station fire department; Reale continued.

Training exercises with ARFF are being planned for later this year, said Reale.

The training schedule will likely consist of exercises with ARFF and the station fire department once a month or every month and a half. 

Using old, dilapidated vehicles for the training, the Marines and sailors were shown the most efficient and safest methods of patient extraction from light vehicles.

“It’s new training,” said Staff Sgt. Ken Deal. SAR crew chief instructor. “We’re increasing what we’re able to do.”

The tools used in the exercise were not the usual equipment that would be used in an extraction. The station fire department would likely use hydraulic tools to open a vehicle. They utilized tools that would be transportable via helicopter with remaining room for victims of a crash, such as power tools, sledge hammers and Hallagan tools, and a lever operated device known as a come-along.

After bashing a driver’s side door repeatedly with a sledgehammer, Davis Sears, station fire department captain, demonstrated to the SAR Marines and sailors how to pry open a door using a Hallagan tool, a large, crowbar-like tool that can be wedged into a door using a sledgehammer.  The station fire fighters also exhibited methods of opening crushed or jammed doors, disconnecting a car’s battery, raising a steering column, removing roofs and safe ways to remove or break windows and windshields.

Sears had numerous other tricks of the trade to share.

“Wrap the steering wheel with duct tape, if you have it,” he said, during the exercise. “Sometimes airbags don’t deploy in an accident, and they can go off during the extraction of the patient.”

He also demonstrated a safer method of breaking in a window, by taping the window in a checkerboard pattern or covering the majority of it with tape, which will hold the shards of glass and reduce the amount of debris.

Reale also plans to conduct training with the station fire department by flying station firefighters to mock accident sites with equipment like the jaws of life, and practicing heavy vehicle extraction.

“It’s just one more thing we can do,” Reale said. “We’re expanding our capabilities.”

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Marine Corps Air Station Yuma