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
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.
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
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.
Photo by Sgt. Dave
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
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
Hospital for treatment.
Fortunately, the climber
only needed a few stitches for some lacerations and was
"He was very, very lucky,"
Lt. Ian Berg, the officer in charge of the training
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.