CASEVAC: Evacuation of a casualty at altitude, with elevation changes, over mountainous terrain and significant distances absolutely sucks. This was probably the biggest learning point of the course. If there is a way to safely evacuate by air or by ground vehicle, then that is much preferred to carrying the casualty out. We realized though, that in a worst case scenario anything is possible. But depending on the size of the group performing the CASEVAC, that group will likely rapidly become exhausted and combat ineffective. A study of the Battle of Takur Ghar vividly portrays the difficulties, nuances, considerations, and the absolute suck of mountain CASEVAC while under fire.(Takur Ghar Washington Post)(Robert’s Ridge Amazon.com)
Mountaineering: This course was a fantastic introduction to many mountaineering skills including rappelling/belaying, rucking, knot tying, basic survival, load bearing and strategic packing which are all essential skills for thriving in a mountainous environment. But without further skill development and maintenance, these skills are perishable. The MCMWTC hosts a six week intensive Summer and Winter Mountain Leaders Course for those individuals who care to further develop and hone their mountaineering skills and then serve as subject matter experts to their units. Likely future conflicts in countries covered in rugged mountainous terrain mandate that we as a military be intimately familiar with thriving, not just surviving in these environments.
Academics: Unfortunately, the academics were not as intensive as some were expecting, but per the instructors it was a “combat medic” course and not necessarily designed for the medical officers. With such a diverse class including non-medical personnel, it was probably for the better. The myriad of practical skills learned though were fantastic, and the breadth of skills covered during that short eighteen days could only be rivaled in the civilian world by multiple courses and thousands of dollars. So ultimately the course was well worth the time and effort and cost as a student.
Fitness: Performance at altitude over significant distances and elevation changes absolutely requires an excellent base of fitness. The course was physically exhausting, and combat in mountainous environments is physically brutal. Adequate preparation and acclimatization is mandatory.