Drills That Save Lives
By Dialogo January 01, 2013
“Stop! Two feet down, slowly, six more inches,” said the instructor leading a
group of military rescue specialists from Belize and the United States as they
rappelled down a slope while carrying a young woman who had been rescued from a cave
on a gurney. Their movements had to be careful and precise because the ropes could
easily get stuck between numerous rocks and trees.
In other harrowing training scenarios, the Soldiers crossed cold rivers or
had to provide first aid during simulated combat. The training was part of a Subject
Matter Expert Exchange on medical rescue and care held February 6-17, 2012, in
Among the participants were the Belize Defence Force (BDF), the Coast Guard
Service of Belize, the Belize Disaster and Rescue Response Team (BDARRT), and
members of the United States Army South (ARSOUTH), a component of U.S. Southern
Command. Senior Chief Danny Garbutt, emergency medical technician for the Belize
Coast Guard, and Corporal Wendy Garcia, BDF medical specialist and BDARRT incident
commander, told Diálogo that this was the first time this type of exercise was
carried out in Belize. ARSOUTH, based at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas,
sponsored the training.
The exercise took place at Ringtail Village, a training camp located close to
the capital, Belmopan, and was divided into two stages. During the first stage, the
team from Belize was in charge of teaching rescue techniques; during the second
stage, medical specialists from the U.S. Army gave a course on tactical combat
High temperatures, river rapids, cliffs and confined spaces were some of the
obstacles overcome by the 20 Belizean and five U.S. Soldiers who participated in the
exercise. The Soldiers and the Coast Guard personnel had a single aim: to save
According to organizers, the experience was of great benefit for both
countries. The Belizean Military and rescuers learned patient assessment, wounded
patient evacuation techniques, and trauma care, skills that prepared them for a real
emergency. The U.S. Soldiers became more knowledgeable about rescue techniques in
hostile environmental conditions, which can be applied during natural disasters such
as floods, hurricanes, or for rescue operations in rivers or tunnels.
“It was sort of an exchange. You teach me something and I teach you
something,” Senior Chief Garbutt said.
Cpl. Garcia said they expect to continue the exchanges because, as the U.S.
Soldiers told him, the training was different from others that they had received.
“This was a good experience for them [the U.S.], especially in the field, the
jungle, because they hadn’t been training in that terrain,” Senior Chief Garbutt
said. “They are not used to the heat. It took a toll on them, otherwise the
experience was great,” he concluded.