Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Extrication, a combat jigsaw puzzle


This is a great story about unsung heroes, leaving no man behind!


By Tech. Sgt. Paul Dean 407th Air Expeditionary Group pubic affairs

ALI BASE, Iraq—The blades of the UH-60 Blackhawk were just about to beat the air into submission as four Airmen rushed toward it with 200 pounds of specialized extrication equipment Nov. 1. The 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Ali Base Fire and Rescue Department Rescue Air Mobility Squad trained with the Army's 54th MEDEVAC Oct. 27 and used lessons learned in a real call Nov. 1. The call for help was made just 300 seconds earlier; the fire station is almost a mile from the helipad; darkness had fallen three hours before and each had to grab battle rattle, a weapon and ammunition.

It wasn’t a drill this time. Two trucks were involved in a near head-on collision ten minutes by air from the base and one of the drivers was trapped.

The Airmen belong to the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Ali Base Fire and Rescue Department Rescue Air Mobility Squad. When the Army’s 54th MEDEVAC can’t complete their mission because of complications they call the RAMS.

“Our mission is treatment and transport. We can’t do either if the victim is trapped in a vehicle,” said Army Staff Sgt. Lee Bucklin, flight medic with the 54th.

The RAMS had trained twice with the 54th since the start of Air and Space Expeditionary Force 7/8 in September. Nov. 1 put all of the training to the test said RAMS NCOIC Tech. Sgt. James Ralls. The victim was trapped in such an unusual way that it took more than an hour and a half to extricate him. Darkness, leaking fluids and the position of the rescue area—above everybody’s heads— added to the complexity of the task.

“I’ve done more than 100 extrications in my career as an Air Force firefighter and a volunteer fireman and this by far the hardest extrication I’d ever seen,” said Senior Airman Tom Knob. The driver was sideways with one leg pinned on top of the steering column, one below it.

Airman 1st Class Christopher cruise practices using a K-12 saw on the hinges of a vehicle Oct. 27 as Tech. Sgt. James Ralls looks on. Airman Cruz put this experience to use Nov. 1 when the RAMS was called into action.(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Knob) (Released) Airmen 1st Class Chris Cruz and Kyle Henson used a K-12 saw to cut the hinges off the door for better access to the cab, but that was just the start of the project.

The cab was taken apart piece by piece as Sergeant Bucklin stood in the engine compartment providing medical care to stabilize the patient and to act as another set of eyes as the RAMS worked.

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Sergeant Ralls. “Everybody had good ideas as we went around the group. Each person took a piece of the puzzle until we had it solved.”

Less than two hours after the call the victim had been extricated from his vehicle. The RAMS had used almost every power tool in their inventory, worked in darkness and harms way but managed to avoid causing additional injuries to the victim.

There are 14 RAMS members in the 407th ECES and they cover all of southern Iraq (about a one hour radius by Blackhawk). Each of the RAMS was hand-picked at their home station. The first four RAMS to the HMMWV when the alarm is sounded go on the mission.

The victim from Nov. 1 was last reported recovering in a local hospital.

To return to the U.S. Central Command home page, click here.

Sign up for the CENTCOM/Coalition Newsletters

Previous List Random Join Next Grunt's Military Site