Suiting up and jumping in: Air Force sharpens ice rescue skills

Inside the Gates
Suiting up and jumping in: Air Force sharpens ice rescue skills
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:23 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In early January, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Fire and Emergency Service Station Chief Karl Schultz headed out to Six Mile Lake with a group of military members for the station’s ice rescue training course. The two-day course was divided into a day of in-class lessons, focusing on many of the essentials of conducting an ice rescue.

“We talked through PPE, we talked through mechanical advantage, rope work, in case we have to assemble pulleys, to get a vehicle out of the ice or something of that nature,” Schultz said.

However, suiting up and getting hands-on practice is a key part of ice rescue training. The next day, Schultz said, was spent on the water. For service members, they spent the day training inside the below-30-degree lake water.

“I am from sunny L.A., so getting in the ice and getting out in the cold frigid temperatures was definitely something new,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Harrison.

While on the lake and in the water, military personnel practiced how to get in and out of the water, along with getting comfortable wearing the rescue suit in the water. From there, they started playing out different scenarios they could experience in the field. Schultz said that each exercise increased the complication of the scenario and the level of difficulty.

“We will go through our rescue options in order of increasing risk so, throwing throw bags, inflating our rapid deployable rescue craft, and deploying that boat to save a victim, all the way out to swimmer contact rescue both with conscious and unconscious victims,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that one of the techniques they focused on was how to self-rescue.

“The big takeaways from our technician training first of all teaching our technicians how to self-rescue, if they find themselves in a bad situation, how to get themselves out of it, without endangering the victim that we are trying to save,” Schultz said.