Medical technician supports pararescuemen as they save lives
Cutline Tech. Sgt. Darrell Mathieu, 212th Rescue Squadron individual duty medical technician, checks the inventory of medical equipment on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)
Posted 10/20/2011 Updated 10/20/2011
by Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs
10/20/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Jumping out of C-130s, rappelling out of helicopters, and saving lives are all in a day's work for the pararescuemen of the 212th Rescue Squadron. Their hard work has been featured in the local newspaper and Men's Fitness Magazine.
The 212th RQS has had a total of 56 saves already this year and one key element in that success is the individual duty medical technician.
Tech. Sgt. Darrell Mathieu, 212th RQS, is the IDMT for the rescue team.
As an IDMT, he does everything from logistics to training and even holds classes to teach the pararescuemen how to properly use their equipment.
Because pararescuemen get injured too, Mathieu also runs a medical hub, a place to diagnose and treat them, to take care of members of the 212th RQS.
"It is a 4N career field. It can take a medic three to five years to meet the core tasks to be completed to apply for cross training. In short order, it requires five-level tasks to be completed; by this time an individual is usually approaching staff sergeant and caps out for retrain up to master sergeant," said Mathieu.
The 4N career field is a medical career and an Airman earning a five-level is experienced and functions as a front-line technician and an initial trainer.
A few certifications Mathieu has are as a tactical combat casualty care instructor, a CPR instructor, certified in advanced cardiac life support, and pediatric advanced life support. On top of that Mathieu remains a current nationally registered paramedic.
"As an IDMT, I have to be very versatile and make do with what medications I'm given and use what equipment I have to make the mission work," said Mathieu.
"Everything is very improvisational," said Mathieu. "They come to me and say 'This is what we need' and I look at what we have and say 'Here's what we got; let's make it work.'"
Mathieu is also responsible for ensuring his pararescuemen know how to treat various conditions. He runs his team through multiple training scenarios until they're comfortable and proficient at treating patients.
"He is constantly seeking out ways for us to make us better," said Air Force Master Sgt. Roger Sparks, 212th RQS pararescueman.
Mathieu is knowledgeable in clinical medicine and uses that knowledge in the training he gives, said Sparks.
"He is the bridge between clinical medicine and elite trauma medicine," said Sparks. "Not only does he say you guys need to use this drug, he says this is how you need to use it."
Mathieu doesn't stay around a hospital because as an IDMT, he's required to be mobile and support in places that may not have medical expertise.
"(I've had) opportunities to work with joint U.S. forces and international interagency counterparts from a number of nations," said Mathieu. "Also, (I've been to) several countries in the South Pacific region."
Members of the 212th RQS aren't the only ones who benefit from Mathieu's expertise. Military in the area of responsibility and at home, along with civilians, reap the benefits of processes that were made better by Mathieu, Sparks said.
"Patients directly feel the impact of what Sergeant Mathieu does," said Sparks.
Another benefit of having an IDMT in the 212th RQS is that it frees up a pararescueman to do his job, which in turns makes them more effective, said Sparks. It also helps keeps continuity of the medicine and medical equipment.
"When you have a pararescueman in there, you have to rotate them eventually and with everyone having their own way of doing something, things can get pretty messed up," said Mathieu.
Mathieu has been working with pararescue for nearly seven years and really enjoys the environment as well as the results when working with them.
"It is so rewarding to support pararescuemen when there is a constant direct reflection of your work on a daily basis," said Mathieu.
Mathieu first came to Alaska on active duty and made some connections that helped him become a 212th RQS member in September 2009.
"I was able to reengage with guys I had worked with before and learned of the opportunity," Mathieu said.