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 in September by the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad with the help of the Blacksburg Fire Department, the Virginia Tech Police Department, and Carilion Clinic’s Life-Guard. The drill proceeded exactly how it should have if this 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 criminology major. Khan is the squad’s public outreach lieutenant, while Klingaman serves as operations captain.

“I initially joined the squad because I was interested in going to medical school,” Khan says. “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.”

Klingaman, in contrast, 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 says. “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 to me.”

Along with providing around-the-clock medical response on campus, the squad demonstrates Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), by helping local rescue squads. That volunteer work has had an unexpected reward, Khan says: “By helping run calls, we get a more accurate perspective on rural medicine.”

Written and photographed by John McBride