320th STS supports a rescue in Nepal

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group

The 320th Special Tactics Squadron demonstrated their ability to rapidly respond to a crisis and work together as a team during a real-world rescue of a man hiking Mount Everest Base Camp Oct. 10, 2017, in Gorak Shep, Nepal.


Several members of the team arrived in Nepal on leave status before an exchange with the Nepalese Mahabir Rangers and planned to hike Mount Everest Base Camp as a morale event prior to the military exercise.


“No one went on the trek expecting to apply their specialized skill-sets,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dunn, 320th STS special tactics officer. “We quickly found ourselves transitioning to work-mode when we came across a gentleman who was clearly in trouble.”


Mr. Frank Fiorillo, a 60-year-old man from Perth, Australia was descending from the Mount Everest Base Camp when he collapsed due to a form of altitude sickness.


“Staff Sgt. Zaioun, our team’s pararescueman (PJ), immediately recognized that Frank was suffering from acute mountain sickness and needed to get to a lower elevation or his condition would continue to deteriorate,” said Dunn. “We briefly considered trying to coordinate for a helicopter medical evacuation, but quickly concluded that there was no viable landing zone with the ongoing snowstorm.”


Special Tactics operators can rapidly infiltrate into austere or hostile areas to enable airpower success in support of contingency operations. The PJ and combat controllers (CCTs) on the team utilized their training and knowledge to access the situation and provide rescue options.


“It was incredible to see how we my team worked together on the trail that day to respond to a crisis,” said Dunn. “Zaioun’s ability to make a quick and accurate medical assessment was the crucial catalyst. He administered medication to help with the symptoms before he began directing Frank’s movement. Everybody then worked to support Frank as they moved him down the mountain. Several guys moved ahead of Frank to clear the path of other hikers while another group stayed back to carry him over the more difficult parts and ensure he didn’t slip or fall.”


Within two hours, the team descended over 1,000 feet and safely transported Mr. Fiorillo to the next village, where they stayed with him until the team’s PJ was comfortable that his condition was stable.


“I’m proud of my team’s ability to respond rapidly to the situation and work together to save a man’s life,” said Dunn. “I’m confident in their ability to tackle any of the Special Tactics mission sets.”


The 320th STS trains in complex, multinational environments in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, infiltration and control of the airspace inside a complex environment, personnel recovery and close-air-support operations with a fire control center.