Students Share Time and Talents with the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad

Areej Khan, a member of the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, is majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics.
Areej Khan, a member of the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, is majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics.

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 by the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad with the help of the Blacksburg Fire Department, the Virginia Tech Police Department, and the Carilion Clinic Life-Guard in September. The drill proceeded 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 pre-med students hoping to work as a doctor or in the emergency medical services field; 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, I changed my perspective on what I wanted to do. I became interested in health policy and health care administration, so I switched my major.”

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

Areej Khan and Ben Klingaman stand in front of the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad ambulance.
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.

“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 to me.”

Both Klingaman and Khan helped organize the mock DUI on the Drillfield. This year they tried to plan the event to have a recruitment angle by lining it up with their recruitment schedule, 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.

“Even if some of our providers get to participate in the drill only once during their time here, the hands-on experience is a great way to learn,” 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 work weeks 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 on-boarding 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 fast.

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 at

Written and photographed by John McBride, a junior majoring in public relations