320th STS and Nepalese partners enhance SAR capability

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sandra Welsh, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group

U.S. Air Force 320th Special Tactics Squadron operators teamed up with Nepalese Mahabir Rangers to enhance search and rescue (SAR) capabilities and improve interoperability during exercise Teak Nail Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, 2017, throughout various locations in Nepal to include Kathmandu, Pokhara, Jomsom and Kaisang.


“Since 2001, the U.S. military has sent operators to Nepal to work with the Ranger Regiment’s Disaster Aid and Response Teams (DART),” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joel Buelow, 320th STS commander. “Our engagements are unique from the training conducted by U.S. Army special operations forces (SOF) because we focus exclusively on SAR; essential training in a country where natural disasters like flash floods, landslides, earthquakes and avalanches result in multiple deaths a year.”


The 60 Nepalese Mahabir Rangers and 16 U.S. Special Tactics operators benefited from the challenging mountainous terrain and altitude acclimatization. The team conducted training on collapsed structures, swift water rescue, rope systems, helicopter insertion, glacier movement and a complex mountain rescue exercise.


“The natural features of Nepal provide training opportunities difficult to find anywhere else in the world,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dunn, Teak Nail mission commander. “From training in the mountains at 17,000 feet in elevation, to working on glaciers, to wild whitewater rivers on which to conduct swift water rescues, Nepal has it all.”


The two forces began the exercise in Kathmandu, Nepal with collapsed structure training, rope systems, tower rappelling and fast roping. 


“The rangers had a vital role within Nepal following the devastating earthquake in 2015,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Humes, Teak Nail senior enlisted leader. “Being able to bring my real-world experience with collapsed structure rescue from Haiti and discuss the challenges faced as rescuers enabled a great collaboration of training. We utilized a building that still had signs of damage from the 2015 earthquake and covered topics such as search patterns, mechanical breaching and hazards.”


The team transitioned to swift water training and helo-casting in Pokhara, Nepal.


“Swift water training is beneficial to Nepalese Army Forces as many of the same techniques are used during flood rescue; a critical skillset for any rescue organization, but especially in Nepal,” said Dunn. “Training in Nepal also benefited our pararescuemen and combat controllers due to the limited access to swift water in locations we are stationed. With the high threat of tsunamis and floods in the Pacific theater, this training enhanced our ability to respond when called upon.”


The culmination of the month-long exercise took place in Kaisang, Nepal with a complex mountain rescue scenario. The team conducted high angle rescue, glacier travel and avalanche basics.


“Conducting training with our SOF Nepalese partners has been extremely rewarding,” said Dunn. “The skillsets of the DART combined with their professionalism and eagerness to train made this exercise incredibly rewarding to all involved.”


Exercise Teak Nail is an annual joint, combined exchange training between 320th STS and Nepalese DART with a focus on developing SAR capability and improving interoperability.