By: Dollie Chase
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Thirty women made history in Freeport, Maine the weekend of May 18-19 when L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery School sponsored Wilderness Medical Associates’ first ever Women’s-Only WFA course. Five years in the making, this course was the brainchild of Sawyer Alberi, a former Flight Medic in Iraq and Combat Medic in Afghanistan. Sawyer taught the course along with Michelle Murphy, a full-time Firefighter and the only female in her squadron.
I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to take this course alongside my new coworkers, Renee and Carrie. We were all a bit nervous the week prior to the course, as we were going to spend our weekend doing “outdoor stuff” that none of us had ever done before, and we were going to be tested!
We had a basic understanding of the course because we all work in the WMA office. Renee picks all the paperwork, books, and gear. I put together all the fastpacks (first aid gear), purchase all the textbooks and medical supplies; while Carrie boxes everything up and ships it to the course location. We all answer emails and phone calls from students, sponsors, and instructors regarding course content and preparation. However, we don’t do a whole lot of outdoor activities other than some gardening or going to the beach.
On the morning of the course, I was impressed as soon as I walked into the L.L. Bean facility. Everything was well-organized and they had put out a very nice spread of scones, bagels, fruit, coffee, and tea. Within a few minutes I’d met a middle-school science teacher, a Bowdoin college student, and a Paterson, NJ Police K-9 Rescue Officer. I realized it was a very diverse group, so I began to relax.
Within the first hour, all nervousness had vanished. Sawyer and Michelle, both expert instructors, put us all at ease. They taught with just the right amount of real-life experience, lecture points, and my personal favorite – emergency simulations. I thoroughly enjoyed the simulations because although the subject matter was serious, it was a lot like role-playing. We had to devise a strategy and then see how well we could carry it out.
I don’t think I could have had as much fun or had such a high level of comfort if it hadn’t been a women-only class. There was a lot of laughter, as well as skill-building, teamwork, cooperation, fearlessness, and finally, a sense of empowerment and accomplishment at the end of the course. I drove home exhausted, but with a great big smile on my face.
I would highly recommend a WMA Wilderness First Aid course to anybody, male or female, who wants to boost their confidence and learn some valuable new skills. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in remote areas, this knowledge would be important to have.
Renee, Carrie, and I agreed that a WMA course would be an awesome team-building getaway weekend for any group. We all enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other better. We were also impressed with the instructors, who really cared about our learning process and ensured that we were able to absorb the concepts of wilderness medicine.
We all enjoyed being part of the Women’s-Only class. We met a lot of interesting, intelligent, self-driven women – not unlike ourselves! If women request more classes like this, I believe they will become more commonplace.
The three of us all feel more comfortable at work now, as we don’t just know the courses from the office standpoint anymore. We had a chance to experience one, so our customer service skills have improved as well.
We all feel stronger today and yes, a bit special, too. We did it and we helped make WMA history in the process.
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”