Regardless of a team’s wilderness medicine training, there’s one scenario that inevitably trips teams up. Deep in the backcountry of Fort Gordon, there’s an army helicopter lying on its side. During the race, the downed chopper sets the scene for a multi-victim helicopter crash, with fake bodies strewn on the ground and a few survivors straggling about. This is where Caudell likes to plant a crazy person.
“Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do in treating the injuries,” says Caudell. “But what do you do when one of the victim’s best friends has died in the crash, and he’s out of his mind trying to get you to save his dead buddy?”
Caudell tells the volunteer acting out the role of demented victim to disrupt everything, all of the time.
“It’s interesting to watch the actors really get into it. One team had to tackle the actor and hold him down. Another team tied the frantic victim to a tree to keep him from hurting himself or someone else.”
It may sound sadistic, but it’s all part of Caudell’s plan to build more prepared doctors.
“Whatever he puts us through makes us better at our jobs,” Hashey says. “Even if you never find yourself in an ‘Everest rescue’ type situation, it’s good to know this stuff. Let’s say you witness a car crash. If you’ve been through MedWAR, you could very well save someone’s life.”
Do It Yourself
Think you’ve got what it takes to tackle MedWAR? The majority of MedWAR racers are in the medical field. Hillary Irons says medical knowledge is obviously key, but physical prowess goes a long way as well. Charles Mock agrees. The fastest team he ever competed on was a team of firemen who blew by the rest of the competitors simply because they were in superior shape.
Here are the MedWAR Challenges in our region:
MedWAR Pennsylvania(August) Snake bites, kayak carries, and navigating the Susquehanna River.
MedWAR Tennessee(November) Orienteering, ropes courses, rabid bears, and big elevation gain around Cumberland Gap.
Mid Atlantic MedWAR, Virginia(March) A beginner course and advanced course with a mid-lake canoe rescue that loops through Newport News Park.
Southeast MedWAR, Georgia (April) The original and still classic. Sand, swamp, and insanity on Fort Gordon military base.
With a plethora of wilderness medicine courses aimed at laymen, there’s no reason any of us should venture into the woods without some basic emergency medicine training. Classes for non-medical folks begin with a two-day Wilderness First Aid primer and advance to a Wilderness First Responder course, an 80-hour curriculum that includes realigning fractures. Check out the Appalachian Center for Wilderness Medicine for classes near you.
Watch This: See video of the Pennsylvania MedWAR race.