Arctic paratroopers save lives in the tropics
November 10, 2011
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - About 18 months ago, in the warmth of sunlit tropical Hawaii, an 18th Medical Command assembly stood in tight formation to welcome home 20 heroes from their deployment to Afghanistan. Their work done, the 8th Forward Surgical Team inactivated.
Under the lush palm trees of Fort Shafter, the unit cased its maroon guidon, smartly saluted its commander and meandered off the parade field. Six months later, the approaching Alaskan winter a sharp contrast to the Hawaiian spring, a lone supply officer unceremoniously handed off the same cased guidon, re-activating the now Airborne 8th FST in a new home. Despite few supplies, no personnel and limited experience the unit grew, sought training and embraced its new 'Arctic-Airborne' identity.
Nearly a year later, the unit again found itself in the shade of tropical palm trees, this time proving its mettle as a combat ready Army Forward Surgical Team. After two weeks at the Army Trauma Training Center in Miami and treating 62 patients at one of the nation's busiest Trauma Centers, the Soldiers of the 8th FST (ABN) are ready to deploy, and fight to save the lives of American service members wounded in war.
"As a young team, we have not yet had the opportunity to work together treating acute trauma patients. Success in our deployed mission, fighting to save life and limb, is impossible without a team focused approach to trauma. At ATTC we have had an outstanding opportunity to rehearse that care. Our experiences there further strengthened our team with confidence that we can make a vital difference for critically injured fellow Soldiers," said Maj. Nathan Marsh, the team's commander.
In collaboration with the University of Miami's Ryder Trauma Center, ATTC opened as the official pre-deployment training center for the Army's Forward Surgical Teams a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A decade later, nearly 100 surgical teams have rotated through the intensive two-week program, which includes team-building exercises, a mass casualty incident response, and clinical rotations in the hospital's Trauma Resuscitation Unit and surgical areas.
The 8th FST (ABN) trained at the ATTC Oct. 15 - 30. After five days of inprocessing and classes, the team ran the trauma center Oct. 20 - 30.
The ATTC course offers tailored classes to all specialties and skill levels. Everyone in the unit receives a core of didactic training, including instruction in casualty triage, human surgical anatomy, and emergency trauma skills. Classroom lessons are reinforced with multiple simulator-based trauma scenarios and supervised patient care.
Training concluded after the 8th FST (ABN) assumed control of the Ryder Trauma Center for a continuous 48-hour period, evaluating and treating every trauma patient who entered the doors during the Halloween weekend. Everyone from fresh-faced privates to board certified surgeons gained invaluable experience from the training. The team's junior member, Pvt. Anthony Triolo, was especially impressed with the ATTC.
"(It was) the best training I have received from the Army. It gave me an excellent opportunity to work with my new team and see how they do things," he said.
The camaraderie of the unit proved to be its ultimate key to success. From a collection of different personalities, varied specialties, and newly attached team members, a solid motivated core emerged with everyone acting in concert to save the lives of their patients.
None of the members of the 8th FST (ABN) expect an easy deployment. Nevertheless with the skills they honed in Miami and with new insight regarding their team's dynamics and capabilities the 8th FST (ABN) knows it can make a difference to all the heroes who find themselves injured in the war zone.