Soldiers train to work in tight spaces

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Weber
221st Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers with the 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Civil Support Command, and the 12th Chemical Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade advanced their skills and knowledge at a five-day training event Sept. 24 on structural collapse awareness and confined space rescue conducted by the Louisiana State University Fire and Emergency Training Institute at the 435th Construction Training Squadron contingency training site on Ramstein.

The LSU FETI has been conducting these classes with National Guard teams for the past five years. This particular training marked two firsts for the organization: it is the first time training an Army Reserve unit, and the first time instructing a team based in Europe.

The LSU FETI sent four of their best instructors to Germany to provide Soldiers with the training they will need to function as a rescue team in future incidents or events.

The first day of training began in the classroom as the instructors taught Soldiers the complexities of working and navigating safely through a building that has collapsed and is structurally unsound. The last four days of training allowed Soldiers to put their classroom instruction into practice. The training consisted of working within confined spaces, conducting rope rescue, basic knot tying, rappelling, pick offs, line transfers and patient package transferring.

“After this training is complete it will allow these Soldiers to be able to handle any kind of confined space rope rescue,” said Ryan Still, a coordinator with the LSU FETI. “This also teaches them to think outside of the box in being creative, how to capture anchor points and go about that rescue in a simple, safe and efficient manner.”

“This training gives Soldiers an advanced knowledge on how to properly asses a situation within the given conditions and remove casualties safely so as not to cause any further injuries,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jay Drucas, a 773rd CST training and operations noncommissioned officer. “It also allows them to do their job safer and with enhanced response capability.

“The instructors are doing an excellent job of explaining everything and making sure that everyone understands,” Drucas continued. “There is an excellent balance between classroom and hands-on training.”

This class not only teaches Soldiers the necessary skills to be able to operate in a situation of a structural collapse and confined space rescue, but it also allows them to see how necessary other aspects of a rescue team are to the mission.

On the final day all their skills were put to the test ― a scenario arose and needed a rescue team to jump into action. A first responder was conducting a survey in an underground bunker when it collapsed. The members of the 773rd CST and 12th Chemical Company were the closest teams available to respond for the rescue. The teams responded quickly and began implementing all of the skills acquired over the past five days. In the end, all of the Soldiers successfully passed the course when the first responder was recovered without further incident.

“Teamwork is one of the key skills, and communication is critical to the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Ralph Lahens, the 773rd CST survey team chief. “Each person on the team has a particular job at that moment and each team member needs to communicate in order to keep the mission safe and successful.

“Participating in this class has also taught that not everything needs to be rushed, because if you rush there is more of a tendency to make a mistake,” Lahens continued.