Two weeks ago, I returned from leading a 4-man Air Force training team to Colombia to teach high angle rescue techniques to Colombian Air Force helicopter crews and para-rescue personnel. This is Part 5 of the chronicles of my adventurous trip to Colombia…
Day 7 – Urban Rescue Ops
Today I had the opportunity to witness training I had never seen before! Most of my training in the US has been focused on mountainous, desert, and forest environments. This was my first experience dealing with combat rescue in an urban environment.
Since we arrived at Palanquero AB, I’ve been teaching and instructing Colombian aircrews about how we conduct helicopter rescue operations in the US. Once we finished our academic training yesterday, I told them to take today off because the rest of our training needs to be conducted in the aircraft (the H60 Blackhawk we’ll be training on doesn’t arrive until tomorrow).
The Rescatistas (Colombian Rescue Forces) in our class asked the PJs if they could learn Urban Rescue Operations instead of having the day off. The PJs said they were willing to teach for a half day, so I grabbed my camera and joined them out at the urban training site to see if I could get a few shots and learn a few things.
What I saw was impressive to say the least! I had no idea some of this stuff was possible (not to mention safe)!
PJs explaining to the Rescatistas what they will be accomplishing today
One of the PJs teaching the basics
A relatively standard rappel out of a 2nd story window with the class looking on
Rescatistas learning to use their teammates to get out of a 2nd story window
This dual-member anchor was used if a patient needed to be lowered on a litter due to an injury
This is where things got interesting. The PJs explained that once your team is out of the building, the tricky part is how to evacuate the last man while still keeping your rope. They described a technique where common items could be used as an anchor in a window as long as they were placed correctly and constant pressure was applied. When they mentioned chapstick as a potential anchor, the class started snickering. Many thought the translator had made a mistake. There was no way chapstick could hold the weight of person… or was there?
A tube of CHAPSTICK serves as an anchor for this Rescatista rappeling out of the building!
He asked his buddy to make a video so his Facebook friends could see his new skills
- I wonder if a pen would work?
Even the pen proved to be a successful anchor. Who knew?
After the morning training, we laid low throughout the afternoon and had our first opportunity to leave the base this afternoon. Cameras were discouraged due to security issues, but it was nice to drive around town and see what the Colombian night life looked like. It honestly made me think of an American college town in the third world. There were lots of people out and about, enjoying the cool evening (85 F) and partying the night away.
We ended up at a relatively boring restaurant outside of the city because it was deemed “safer” by our hosts. Although the atmosphere wasn’t amazing, the food was excellent and we were grateful to have an opportunity to get off base and stretch our legs a little.
Altogether it was a great day. We start flying tomorrow. I can’t wait to get started!
1. A Night in Orlando – Colombia Chronicles
2. Arriving in Bogota - Colombia Chronicles
3. SECDEF, the FARC, and Palanquero - Colombia Chronicles
4. Helicopter Academics - Colombia Chronicles