As 2021 comes to a close, the Special Operations Unit (SOU) is reflecting on an important year in its rescue capability. Along with significant capability development and increased rescue officer staffing, NSW Ambulance Rescue is celebrating its 60th birthday.

NSW Ambulance Rescue units are staffed by Rescue Operator-qualified Paramedics who provide technical rescue services in their respective areas of responsibility around the State.

These skills include road crash rescue, vertical rescue, land search and rescue, tactical medicine, swiftwater operations and large animal rescue.

In 1961 a public fundraising campaign was initiated by Supt. Sandy Purdie and his son, Officer George Purdie of St George District Ambulance Service, with the support of radio announcer Gary O’Callaghan.

This resulted in Australia’s first dedicated purpose-built rescue vehicle, the ‘Q-Van’, commissioned into service in a ceremony on 6 October 1961.

Station Officer Jim Smith was the first rescue-trained officer and went on to operate the vehicle and train other officers for the next 17 years. During this time he moved his family into Rockdale station and was involved in all but three rescue calls in all those years.

Superintendent Keith Williams, Manager SOU, remembers the impact of SO Jim Smith when he started on the Caringbah rescue truck in 1987. “He was a legend of the rescue community and a lot of our gear and procedures were pioneered by him when I joined,” Keith said.

“His dedication to Ambulance Rescue is something we remember to this day.”

This tradition of service continues with the six Ambulance Rescue stations - located at Rutherford, Singleton, Tamworth, Cowra, Bomaderry and Wagga Wagga.

“As we’ve expanded our capabilities, including tactical medical response and large animal rescue, we’re seeing an increase in both rescue calls from the community and requests for inter-agency support,” Keith said.

“Our team are performing incredibly well with great feedback coming back to us.”

Recently, a combined team from Singleton Ambulance Rescue, Rutherford Ambulance Rescue and Port Stephens SES won seven of the nine categories of the NSW State Road Crash Rescue Challenge Competition.

This challenging event consisted of rescue teams from NSW rescue agencies and tested their ability to coordinate and conduct difficult road crash rescue scenarios. The team also represented Australia in the World Rescue Challenge, taking gold and silver in two events.

Overseeing the training and development of the capability is Rescue Coordinator, Inspector Dane Goodwin.

Dane and the Rescue Training Team conduct over 80 regional training days per year across the six regional stations in addition to the Ambulance Rescue Courses. A/Training Officer Tim Nulty said he enjoys interacting with each of the rescue units.

“It’s a unique role we have being able to get out there and spend time with the rescue officers at each station. They’re always really motivated on training days which makes for a great day of learning and problem solving.”

Rescue Paramedic Jess Evans graduated from the demanding two-month NSW Ambulance Rescue course in Oct 2020 and is one of the newer officers in the Wagga rescue team.

In the past 12 months she’s conducted vertical rescues, freed entrapped patients in motor vehicles, responded to tactical incidents and a structural collapse that required roof shoring.

“So far my most memorable experience has been the comraderie among the rescue team and knowing that on-scene we can work as a team to tackle any incident,” she said.

With a project underway to deliver new, state-of-theart rescue trucks, 2022 looks set to be another busy year for Rescue and the Special Operations Unit.

“Our rescue officers are some of the best in the State and this investment in rescue trucks will allow us to stay at the forefront of technical rescue services in Australia,” CTEM Associate Director Richard Cohen said.

As always, Rescue Paramedics will continue to provide a unique technical rescue service to their communities and uphold SOU’s motto ‘Per Effectus’ (by performance).