Santa Paula Resident Completes
Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester

September 10, 2014
Santa Paula News

Tommy Jackson, 21 of Santa Paula, recently completed a 90-day Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). 

This career course is designed to teach students how to work as confident professionals in the outdoor education field. The NOLS Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester course focused on professional preparation for outdoor leadership, wilderness medicine and rescue. 

Before heading into the backcountry, Jackson and his coursemates completed a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course held at the NOLS Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus in Lander, Wyo. This course combined an urban EMT-Basic course and a Wilderness First Responder course into a single-long month program. Each student participated in two clinical rotations at local emergency rooms.

The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester had three field sections: canyon, river and climbing/ high-angle rescue. This semester emphasized the teaching and management of these technical skills while incorporating wilderness medicine scenarios in the backcountry.

Jackson and his coursemates headed into the field for a 21-day canyon section. The group discovered the wonders of Utah’s Dirty Devil River country. Students began developing basic canyoneering skills and built a strong community. As the section progressed, students took turns as leader of the day, started travel independent of instructors and had solo time for reflection. Near the end of this section, students took ownership of the course and planned travel routes through the slot canyons. Finally, there was a three-day independent student expedition, where students used all skills they’d learned to travel independently in good style through the wilderness.

Next, the group transitioned to a river section. Students learned skills during a river rescue seminar at a base camp on the Yampa River. Intense river rescue curriculum was covered including swimming, wading and throw bag equipment drills. Then, the students had a 10-day canoe section on the Desolation/ Gray Canyon section of the Green River. Traveling in tandem canoes, the group paddled 85 miles of Class II-III water. Wilderness medicine topics included acting as EMT on call and first-aid scenarios in water and on land. Students each had a turn to act as leader of the day on the water and were responsible for the group and safety management on the water.

Finally, Jackson and his coursemates had an 18-day climb and high-angle rescue section, taking place at Sinks Canyon and Larkin Dome in Wyoming. The students learned a full climbing progression including: sport, lead, traditional multi-pitch, improvised self-rescue and two-rope litter rescues. Students lowered and hauled litters in vertical terrain, built a Tyrolean traverse and developed a sense of community. On the final section of the semester, all students led WEMT scenarios and debriefed their peers. 

The NOLS Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester was full of exploration and bonds that will last a lifetime. Students all learned to make independent decisions in the backcountry and how to participate on search, rescue and medical teams. Jackson and his coursemates graduated as competent and responsible wilderness travelers and leaders. They join the NOLS alumni network of over 221,000 graduates.

About NOLS - The National Outdoor Leadership School:

Since legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt founded the school in 1965, more than 221,000 students have graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the leader in wilderness education. Whether through field-based courses offered in some of the most awe-inspiring locations in the world or classroom-based courses, the school provides transformative educational experiences to students of all ages. Graduates emerge as active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. To discover the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.