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Mountain meds treat remote injuries

17th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 12:22PM August 22nd, 2013

DASH POINT STATE PARK, Wash. – While on their morning hike, two elderly women stumbled upon a group of emergency medical personnel responding to the victim of a mountain biking accident. The biker suffered multiple broken bones and was evacuated from the site.

Thankfully it was training, not a real accident; however, accidents like these are too common in the military and in outdoor sports.

In August, rescue workers, care providers and mountaineering experts from across the Department of Defense took part in the Military Mountain Medicine Course, a 10-day training event about saving lives in austere environments.

“The course covers movement in the mountains and all the illness you’ll find there, altitude illness, hypothermia, frostbite, heat illness, all those kinds of things,” said U.S. Army Col. Ian Wedmore, director of Madigan Army Medical Center’s Emergency Medicine Austere and Wilderness Medicine Fellowship. The course, 60 percent classroom training and 40 percent hands-on exercises, includes a trip to Mount Rainier for glacier trekking, where students learn how to navigate mountainous terrain.

“In the field setting you’re not going to have much equipment,” Wedmore said. “So, you’ll have to be able to improvise most of the time ... You really have to know how to treat those in the field and decide what someone has and if you need to evacuate them.”

Madigan is the only medical center in DOD offering the program, designed for operational settings requiring techniques for austere or high-altitude environments.

For 1st Sgt. Nathan Chipman, first sergeant at the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., the course offered lifesaving information to pass on to students. He appreciated the “doctor-level perspective of mountaineering, military mountaineering and austere medicine.”

Although dog walkers were thrown off their routines by the training at Dash Point, no bikers were harmed, while participants in the Military Mountain Medicine Course gained lifesaving skills for the harshest, highest environments.