News: Madigan hosts DoD’s only Military Mountain Medicine Course
Story by Sgt. Zachary Gardner
DASH POINT STATE PARK, Wash. – While on their morning hike, two elderly women were startled when they 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 wasn’t a real accident, only training. Unfortunately, accidents like these are common in the world of outdoor sports and in the military.
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 where participants learned how to save 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.
Wedmore said the course consists of 60 percent classroom training and 40 percent hands-on exercises, including a trip to Mt. Rainier for glacier trekking where students learn methods for navigating through mountainous terrain.
“In the hospital you have all the equipment you want, where as 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. Then there is also the knowledge set. Here for example, you’re never going to see acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness. You really have to know how to treat those in the field and decide what someone has and if you need to evacuate them or not.”
Madigan is the only medical center in the DoD that offers the program. The course is designed for those that are going to an operational setting where they can use the techniques they’ve learned in an austere or high-altitude environment.
For 1st Sgt. Nathan Chipman, first sergeant at the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., the mountain medicine course offered life saving information that he and his instructors can pass on to their students.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get a doctor-level perspective of mountaineering, military mountaineering, and austere medicine,” he said.
Chipman added that the Military Mountain Medicine Course also provides “top tier care providers,” like doctors and paramedics, with valuable skills to train combat medics back at their units.
Although some dog walkers were thrown off their routine in the Dash Point area, no bikers were harmed. The participants in the Military Mountain Medicine Course gained the critical skills necessary to save lives in the harshest, and highest, of environments.