RedSTAR Medical: Heroes in the Heartland

Marissa Newby
3 min readMar 5, 2024

Recently, a team of dedicated professionals who fulfill critical wilderness medical access needs in one of Kentucky’s most beautiful, and dangerous, natural areas received state and national media attention when they successfully rescued a group of college students stranded in the Red River Gorge.

This rescue, however, is just one of many proficient operations that RedSTAR has made since it was organized in 2015, as an extension of Powell County Search and Rescue. RedSTAR stands for Red River Gorge Special Treatment, Access and Rescue. They provide critical assets for rescue and advanced medical care to the Red River Gorge, which spans 3 separate counties in Kentucky and encompasses roughly 37,223 acres of, sometimes, challenging and remote wilderness. With over 750,000 hikers, campers, climbers and visitors each year coming to the gorge, there is an enormous need for advanced rescue and life support. The gorge hosts more people per capita than the surrounding counties combined, all at different levels of proficiency in survival and recreation. RedSTAR has their work cut out for them. One of the unique things about RedSTAR is that their work is free. The service is entirely volunteer based.

Nearly a decade ago, the members of RedSTAR saw a need. In Kentucky, many Search and Rescue (SAR) teams are not comprised of Paramedics. Emergency Medical Technicians, Nurses, or Physicians. These clinicians are typically found in Ambulance services or hospital based roles. SAR teams are not obligated to offer medical aid, hence the title. This leaves a gap in calls for service where a visitor becomes a patient with a medical emergency. Given the distance, location and complication of extricating patients in remote, wilderness areas, delivering timely and proficient medical care can actually be the different between life, limb and death.

RedSTAR was able to meet that need by forming relationships with local and state agencies to provide an entirely volunteer service. Don’t confuse volunteer with cheap or free, though. In order to provide life changing support to the stranded, injured or ill in the gorge, RedSTAR requires equipment, continued training and assets that can only be provided through networking and developing a framework of donations and other sources of income to support the service. The service has been hard at work developing the state and national framework for a recognized and highly technical Wilderness Medicine designation for their medical providers, in addition to developing, housing and maintaining several other rescue and emergency courses.

In order for this critical access service and Wilderness Medical program to continue operating, there will always be a need to support them. There are several different ways you can support them.

There is a Gofundme currently open

You can donate via their website, or click on their name above to find their homepage. They are a 501(c) 3 public charity.

You can enroll in one of their courses, also via their website

If you would like to know more, contact them and ask how you can support this unique and necessary life saving effort.



Marissa Newby

Blogger focusing on Emergency Management, Safety, CBRNE matters and Conflict