Services work together during rescue training
JUNGLE WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Okinawa, Japan -- Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel worked together during a search and rescue exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves Oct. 18.
The exercise was unique as an Air Force helicopter provided aerial support for a search and rescue exercise at the center, according to Capt. Thomas A. Carpenter, the operations officer with JWTC.
The service members involved relished the opportunity to complete the joint training, which incorporated personnel assigned to JWTC and the Air Force's 33rd Rescue Squadron, which is part of the 18th Operations Group, 18th Wing.
"It's an amazing feeling being able to work as a joint force," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Branson P. Merrill, a corpsman assigned to JWTC. "Not only was I able to work on my corpsman duties, but I was able to work on rope techniques, like hasty rappelling."
Early in the exercise, Marines focused on honing their tactical rope suspension techniques to extract simulated casualties to a landing zone.
"Marines used intricate rope work," said Sgt. Julio C. Chavez, an infantryman and a chief instructor assigned to JWTC. "They created a pulley system in order to transport casualties out of thick vegetation and various elevations in the terrain."
Prior to moving the simulated casualties to the landing zone, the corpsmen evaluated and triaged the patients.
"You never know what situation you might encounter in a search and rescue," said Merrill. "In this case, one simulated casualty had a broken pelvis and femur."
The casualty was placed on a skid, transported from the jungle, and taken to the landing zone.
The casualties were lifted into an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and transported to Camp Lester, where further aide could be provided at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, according to Carpenter.
"It took us an hour and forty-five minutes to accomplish the mission," said Chavez. "Due to the terrain, an evolution like this would normally take about four hours."
The service members did a phenomenal job moving through the heavy vegetation, muddy terrain and drastic elevation changes, according to Carpenter.
The JWTC provides an ideal training area for search and rescue exercises, as terrain and logistics challenge decision-making skills.
"The unit made wise decisions choosing the route in and out of the jungle and worked effectively as a team," said Chavez.