KSAR volunteers practice search and rescue techniques carrying a person out of the backcountry in a litter.
By Robin Alberti
KILLINGTON — This past Saturday, June 13, Killington Search and Rescue (KSAR) held another training seminar, this time with representative from the U.S. Army. Sergeant Christopher Bushway and Sergeant Nate Chipman were KSAR guest. Bushway and Chipman are part of the Army National Guard Mountaineering School who train Navy Seals and US Air Force para-rescue troops.
The weather in the Vermont mountains can change quickly, and KSAR must be prepared to rescue folks in the backcountry under harsh circumstances. The higher elevations of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail often experience the harshest conditions.
Chipman and Bushway came to the fire house in Killington to work with the KSAR team to improve their skills and go over potential scenarios that they could face while out on a search and rescue mission. The training began with classroom-style learning, then the team when into the field (the Long Trail) to practice their skills. In the classroom portion of the training, the group was instructed on how to accomplish their goal of search, locate, medicate and evacuate. Learning how to use “operational environment” was the main focus.
A common language and skill set among the team increases the likelihood of a positive outcome, so many terms and acronyms were tossed around during the training. Beyond the navigational, physical and medical skills, rescue personnel need to consider how the process can impact the outcome of a rescue mission.
After the classroom portion was complete, the group headed to the Long Trail Inn and took to the woods to practice. One of the team members volunteered to be a hurt hiker, so that the group could practice the process they learned. KSAR members successfully transferred the injured person to a “litter” (which can be a number of types of devices, similar to a stretcher), secured the patient and navigated him through rugged terrain to safety. The group practiced “packaging” the person, keeping him warm and dry to minimize the chance of exposure to the elements and therefore increasing the chance of a successful recovery.
Skills using the environment such as trees to secure ropes to, proper knot tying, and working together as a team, were all practiced.
The KSAR volunteers take optional courses such as this one to better serve the region’s active culture of locals and visitors alike.