State Department’s Foreign Police Training Pays Dividends with Thai Cave Rescue

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Rescue personnel walk out of the entrance to a cave complex where 12 soccer team members and their coach were rescued in northern Thailand.
Rescue personnel walk out of the entrance to a cave complex where 12 soccer team members and their coach were rescued in northern Thailand.

State Department’s Foreign Police Training Pays Dividends with Thai Cave Rescue

The recent Thailand cave rescue shined a light on the incredibly complex, dangerous and difficult work undertaken by authorities trying to undertake an evacuation mission. The entire world held its collective breath as Thai rescuers deployed divers, helicopters, military personnel, physicians and many others in what was ultimately a successful operation. One critical piece of this puzzle -- the efforts of the Royal Thai Police -- showcased a side of law enforcement work which may often escape public notice: medical evacuation from dangerous situations. We in the State Department’s drugs and crime bureau, INL, were beyond pleased that the Royal Thai Police unit which played a key role in the Thailand rescue has regularly undergone U.S.-led training on medical evacuation skills and tactics at an INL-run academy in Bangkok. 

INL's International Law Enforcement Academy in Thailand regularly includes the Royal Thai Police aircrew that took part in the rescue in trainings on emergency evacuations of wounded individuals from challenging environments. Beginning last year, the Royal Thai Police started undergoing exercises similar to the cave medical rescue as part of the academy's Advanced Tactical Safety and Planning Course. That course, led by INL’s partners at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was expanded recently to incorporate the effective operation of helicopter and paramedic crews in complex rescue situations with a medical component. The Royal Thai Police aircrews have been included in the training, which is primarily intended for counternarcotics units, as it gives them an opportunity to practice making these evacuations under realistic scenarios. 

The International Law Enforcement Academies, of which there are five spread around the globe, represent one piece of INL’s commitment to building the effectiveness of law enforcement around the world. Through these academies as well as bilateral police training initiatives in individual countries, we seek to build police skills in everything from community policing to fighting transnational crime to, yes, medical rescue. All of us at INL are overjoyed that the 12 Wild Boars and their coach made it out to safety, and we honor the sacrifice made by Thai Navy Seal Saman Kuman. We're proud that International Law Enforcement Academy Bangkok helped bolster the skills of some of the valiant Thai rescuers.

About the Author: Michael Alpern serves in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.