Rocket and improvised explosive device attacks, dust-covered ambulances full of injured Soldiers and civilians screeching to a halt, bloody, noisy operating rooms and round-the-clock operations were all part of the most comprehensive medical post-mobilization training ever conducted by First Army.
When the last patient was bandaged and the last scalpel was sterilized and stored, the 345th Combat Support Hospital, the 312th Medical Logistics Company and the 441st Ground Ambulance Company were validated and ready to deploy to save lives and mitigate the suffering of friend and foe alike.
"This training is really high-speed," said Sgt. Marcus Haynes, a health-care specialist with the 345th. "It's really in-depth. We're being asked real questions by real patients and we're being forced to think outside the box."
High-speed training is nothing new to First Army, which conducts training, readiness oversight and mobilization of Army Guard and Reserve forces. But this ground-breaking exercise is part of a collective training validation system to train Reserve medical units to a single standard at a single location.
Col. Edward A. Lindeke, First Army command surgeon, said that location is Fort Hood, Texas.
"We (the Army) needed a place - a single place - where we could easily bring in deploying medical personnel from locations throughout the United States and train to a single standard," Lindeke said. "And, we needed easy access to subject-matter experts, like-type units, a burn unit, a Level III trauma center and the ability to train on the same equipment they will use when they deploy. We needed to train them like they're going to operate."
"Texas was the logical choice because of MEDCOM's and the Army Medical Department Center and School's proximity to Fort Hood," Lindeke said, "and the San Antonio International Airport provides easy, year-round access. The Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center provided the quality training support that was needed."
Being medical units, the Soldiers had to be validated both on their Soldier skills and their medical tasks, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Junnila, division surgeon for First Army Division West.
"Medical units are a little different from infantry or armor units because not only do we have to learn all of our Soldier skills, but we must be validated on our medical skills as well," Junnila said. "The 120th Infantry Brigade (one of 16 training brigades within First Army) trained the Soldier skills such as marksmanship, responding to an attack on the hospital or what to do if you're in a Humvee roll-over. We brought in medical personnel from CRDAMC, AMEDDC&S, First Army Division East and the 21st CSH to validate the medical tasks."
One of those medical observer controller/trainers (OC/T) was Sgt. 1st Class Julie Hampton from First Army Division East's 157th Infantry Brigade.
"I've been an OC/T for chemical units and Air Force units before, but not for an entire combat support hospital," said Hampton, a full-time firefighter and paramedic in her civilian job in Augusta, Ga. "I believe these Soldiers are getting really effective medical training, and that is what's most important."
Col. Dwight Shen is chief of staff for the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital, and will rotate in for a 90-day assignment as deputy commander for clinical services (DCCS) later this year.
"Having this exercise was great," said Shen. "It allowed me to get to know the staff I'll work with, and they got to know me. That will be a great advantage when I rotate in for my 90-day tour. I've met the DCCS I'll replace, and the one who'll replace me. We've gotten to know each other very well and we will talk with each other during the entire deployment so we remain on the same page of music."
Spc. Michael Tackitt, an Army Reservist with the 441st Ground Ambulance Company, had the most succinct reply when asked about the quality of the training.
"The training has been pretty real-world." stated Tackitt. "As close as it can get."