GALLAGHER, W.V. --
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines completed a 10-day, specialized rescue training course at the Center for National Response in Gallagher, W.V., May 30, 2013, in preparation for the MEU’s upcoming deployment.
For the first three days, the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense Marines practiced rope rescue skills involving webbing, safety harnesses, knots, anchor systems, various hitch systems, pick-off rescue, and safely descending and ascending.
The 11 Marines also received hands-on training beyond the 40 hours of classroom time.
The practical application portion of the course required Marines to set up their own anchor systems and use them to rappel 20 feet inside of the Memorial Tunnel, a decommissioned highway tunnel that CNR utilizes for training, and ascend back up the side of the tunnel.
Everything learned during the three days of rope rescue training is very important, said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Park, the main search and rescue instructor at CNR.
“Everything within rope rescue is extremely perishable,” said Park. “It’s not really the broad perspective that gets a soldier, whether it’s a rescuer or a casualty, injured, but it’s the small details that you miss that makes somebody become a fatality or worse casualty.”
The MEU Marines also learned how to properly package a casualty and rig them up to ropes for rope rescue.
“It was interesting to see how you do it, how you rig up the casualty and bring them back up,” said Lance Cpl. Dylan Shuler, 22nd MEU CBRN specialist and native of Bell Buckle, Tenn.
After rope-rescue training, the Marines moved on to confined-space training inside of the Memorial Tunnel. This training consisted of going through different levels of the confined-space trainer searching for casualties while wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses.
“Confined-space training is really just being able to work in an extremely stressful environment,” said Park. “In confined spaces, if you have low lighting or even no lighting, which we work with in this course, being able to cut off 90 percent of your normally used senses to use hearing and touch to find your way through an entire building to find a casualty is the most difficult thing you’re going to run into.”
The confined-space portion of the course lasted two days, followed by collapsed-structure training, which spanned three days and was the last period of instruction.
During collapsed-structure training, Marines learned to move large cement slabs with wooden blocks, a method called cribbing. They also learned to temporarily stabilize structures with wooden braces. Moving on from shoring, they learned to breach through concrete slabs with jackhammers and steel panels with torches.
“Collapsed structures was pretty fun altogether,” said Lance Cpl. David Malin, 22nd MEU CBRN specialist and native of Mesquite, Texas. “We utilized different pieces of equipment and different methods of rescue and recovery. Who doesn’t like using torches and jackhammers?”
Just like rope training, every detail counts when it comes to collapsed structures, said Park.
“Collapsed structures is really just knowing step-by-step what your actions need to be, not only to gain access to casualties, but to protect the rescuers in the structure,” said Park. “Any time that you’re conducting operations within a structure that has been compromised, whether it’s from an explosion or natural disaster, if you don’t catch the signals and the signs you’re sacrificing your whole team. The most important part is just recognizing what you need to do first to progress further on through the operation.”
Once the Marines completed the training, they ended the course with a final test and final exercise. The test was 50 questions long and comprised the different subjects and methods learned throughout the course.
The final exercise consisted of shoring, searching for casualties in a confined space, cutting through metal sheets, patient packaging and breaching a cement slab to retrieve a casualty. During the rescue, each team relayed messages to the incident commander and on-site rescue chief via handheld radios.
The Marines learned to work together as a team, with each of them taking on different roles during the exercise.
“For what it was, it went pretty well,” said Malin. “There were new people in charge who didn’t have a chance earlier in this training. Everybody knew what all the tasks were that had to be done as a team. Everybody worked exceptionally well together.”
Overall, the training proved to be very beneficial for the Marines, said Staff Sgt. Joshua Shepard, 22nd MEU CBRN chief and native of Mustang, Okla.
“I think it’s going to benefit them in a few different ways,” said Shepard. “It gives them something to look forward to, more than the normal day-to-day grind; now they have an additional skill set that they can use.”
Although the CBRN Marines have only just begun their predeployment training, this course has better prepared them for nearly any kind of rescue they may encounter during their deployment early next year.