Mountain Warfare Training

Turns into Real-life Rescue

 for 19th Special Forces Group

 

Written by 1st Lt. Ian Berg

 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Published October 5, 2005

       

 

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Syddall, above, leads the second pitch of Layback Crack as 1st Lt. Ian Berg belays below him. Both are members of 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Bernard

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Syddall, above, leads the second pitch of Layback Crack as 1st Lt. Ian Berg belays below him. Both are members of 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON A mountain warfare team from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Utah National Guard, met reality head-on during their mountain rescue and mountaineer training Aug. 17 in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

While the 19th conducted rope ascents and descents, a pair of local civilian climbers began climbing on an adjacent bolted route. The lead climber reached and secured himself to the first bolt and continued onto the second bolt, which was approximately 30 feet off the ground.

The climber suddenly became dizzy and sat down on a small ledge next to the second bolt without connecting to it. Before anyone could react, the climber fell to the ground.

Members of the Special Forces team at the top of their route saw the fall, as did Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Syddall, an 18D medic with 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, who was 15 feet into his ascent on a nearby route.

As Syddall quickly reversed his ascent and climbed down, he called up to the other team members to go and get his aid bag and backboard out of their vehicle.

One member of the Special Forces team ran the nearly half-mile distance back to the vehicle to get the bag while the rest of the team members came to Syddall's assistance in providing first aid to the fallen climber.

The civilian climbers didn’t have a cell phone, so Syddall gave his phone to the fallen climber’s partner and told him to call 911.

While waiting for first responders to arrive, the Special Forces team, at the direction of Syddall, a West Valley fireman and paramedic, stabilized the climber, placed him on a backboard and applied a neck brace in preparation for evacuation.

An injured civilian climber is carried out of Big Cottonwood Canyon by first responders and members of the 19th Special Forces Group Aug. 17.

Photo by Sgt. Dave Lopez

An injured civilian climber is carried out of Big Cottonwood Canyon by first responders and members of the 19th Special Forces Group Aug. 17.

When emergency personnel arrived about 15 minutes later, Syddall provided all of the climber’s vital statistics and condition assessment to them.

The Special Forces team assisted with the evacuation by carrying the backboarded victim out of the climbing area where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Cottonwood Hospital for treatment.

Fortunately, the climber only needed a few stitches for some lacerations and was released.

"He was very, very lucky," said 1st Lt. Ian Berg, the officer in charge of the training exercise.

When Syddall was asked later about the incident, he called it  "a walk in the park," meaning that he sees these kinds of emergency situations daily as a firefighter.

"My military medical training laid the groundwork for me to be able to deal effectively with these kinds of situations in the Guard and in my day job," said Syddall.

Berg has worked closely with Syddall for more than a year and has very high praise for his medical expertise and response to the situation.

“I have ultimate confidence in Sgt. 1st Class Syddall. He knew exactly what to do. The guy is incredible,” Berg said.