Parked on the Drillfield, next to a mangled car, was an ambulance emblazoned with a giant HokieBird, its wings crossed like those of a silent guardian.

What may seem at first glance to be the site of a horrible accident was actually a mock DUI drill held earlier this fall by the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad with the help of the Blacksburg Fire Department, the Virginia Tech Police Department, and Carilion Clinic Life-Guard. The drill unfolded exactly how it would have if it had been a real wreck, complete with a helicopter lifting patients from the scene.

The squad, currently in its 50th year, is the oldest collegiate rescue squad in Virginia. It is entirely student run, with 40 members who perform the same functions as a municipal rescue squad.

The real-world emergency medical services experiences gained by rescue squad members — coupled with experiences gleaned from drills like this one — are not only great opportunities for students planning to work in health care or in emergency medical services, they’re also highly useful for students in the liberal arts.

Two such examples are Areej Khan, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, and Ben Klingaman, a senior majoring in criminology. Khan is the public outreach lieutenant for the squad, while Klingaman serves as operations captain.

“I initially joined the squad because I was interested in going to medical school,” Khan said. “Yet as I went through my college career, my perspective changed on what I wanted to do. I became interested in health policy and health care administration, so I switched my major.”

Areej Khan (left) stands in front of a Virginia Tech Rescue Squad ambulance with Ben Klingaman
Areej Khan is a junior who serves as the public outreach lieutenant for the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, while Ben Klingaman, a senior, is operations captain. Photo by John McBride for Virginia Tech

Klingaman, on the other hand, wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“The Virginia Tech Police Department goes on a majority of the calls with us, so we get to interact with them,” he said. “We typically end up working with them on car accidents and those kinds of things anyway, so being able to see them in action is really cool.”

Klingaman and Khan both helped organize the mock DUI drill. This year they sought to design the event as a recruitment opportunity as well, and they were happy with the crowd of students — larger than in previous years, according to Klingaman — who were potentially interested in joining the squad.

“The hands-on experience is a great way to learn, even if some of our providers get to participate in the drill only once during their time here,” Klingaman said.

Along with providing around-the-clock medical response on campus and ongoing trainings for campus groups, the squad also demonstrates Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), outside the university by helping other rural rescue squads.

“We help the Shawsville Rescue Squad run calls,” Khan said, “so we get a more accurate perspective on rural medicine.”

While 40-hour workweeks may seem intimidating to the average student, these liberal arts students handle it with confidence and a smile.

Anyone can join the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad regardless of experience or skill, as new members go through rigorous training. When recruiting, the squad looks at applications holistically, taking into account such attributes as an applicant’s passion for service, problem-solving skills, and ability to think quickly.

The squad also hosts free classes on first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, automated external defibrillators, and techniques to stop bleeding. For more information on these classes, email the Rescue Squad.

Written by John McBride, a junior majoring in public relations