CBRN Marines perfect life-saving rope rescue techniques

28 Jan 2011 | Sgt. Josh Cox

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in technical rope rescue training during a specialized course aboard the Center for National Response, in Gallagher, W.V., Jan. 27-29, 2011.

Randy Hall, a lead planner and instructor at the CNR facility, explained, the course was developed to train CBRN Marines on rescue operations in environments involving hazardous materials.

“In this particular instance you have a team that is capable of going downrange into a ‘hot zone’ that would involve chemicals,” Hall said. “In that same ‘hot zone,’ you might have to conduct rescue efforts.”

During the specialized course, Marines and Army National Guardsmen learned about equipment needed for a rope rescue and how to properly construct safe rigging systems.  Specifically, the training emphasized industry-standard rigging systems used to pull victims to safety from high and low angles.

Weathering West Virginia’s harsh winter conditions, the rescuers formulated a plan of action to safely rescue an injured victim stranded in a snow covered valley.  The students constructed a rope rig, conducted required safety checks, and finally, lowered rescuers and equipment for the scenario.  Once in place, the rescuers stabilized the victim, gently prepared the injured for transport and progressively ascended the hill.  At the conclusion of the scenario, the students gathered to discuss the mission’s overall successes and failures.

In a separate portion of the course, students repelled from platforms into a decommissioned highway tunnel, used exclusively for training, and constructed rope rigging systems to negotiate through various scenarios within the facility.

“I like building the systems – particularly because I think it’s something I can use outside of my job,” said Cpl. James J. McNeely, who is an avid rock climber.

McNeely, who is a CBRN defense specialist with the 22nd MEU, said if he must conduct a rope rescue, he will know exactly what system to use to save time and ultimately lives.

The Apple Valley, Calif., native said the Marines learned multiple methods of rope rigging and patient packaging techniques during the course.

“Patient packaging is being able to assess the victim and being able to package the patient in a harness or on a backboard, and transfer the patient to emergency medical services,” he explained.

The rope rescue course supplemented a specialized two-week training package in advanced chemical familiarity and technical rescue to prepare the CBRN Marines for an upcoming deployment with the 22nd MEU this summer.

While deployed, the CBRN Marines will operate as an assessment and consequence management team trained to perform missions in unique environments.  If dispatched, the CBRN Marines will quickly respond to crises aboard ship, during humanitarian and relief operations, or while in a combat zone.

In addition to the rope rescue course, this training evolution certified the Marines in confined space entry and rescue, and collapsed structure entry and rescue.  The certifications will be awarded by officials representing the University of West Virginia and Wisconsin’s Regional Emergency All-Climate Training Center.

The Center for National Response is a facility of the Army National Guard used to train emergency responders in a variety of skill sets.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stage of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and the Command Element.

Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response in a hostile or crisis environment.  While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad.    

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit