By Maj. Kamil SztalkoperAugust 9, 2013
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Aug. 9, 2013) -- With smoke billowing in the distance and loud speakers blaring instructions, Soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team "Currahee," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducted a mass casualty exercise during the late afternoon hours on Forward Operating Base, Salerno, here, Aug. 6.
"Today we are testing the functionality and the ability to react under the most austere situation possible on the [forward operating base]," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Freeman, a combat medic, with Charlie Company, 801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
The mass casualty exercise, or MASCAL, featured 15 simulated casualties with a variety of injuries and a burning downed aircraft, involving numerous agencies and Army units on Forward Operating Base, or FOB, Salerno.
"We had a culmination of multiple events," said Freeman, "we had a simulation of a downed plane, with multiple casualties, working alongside the FOB [quick-reaction force], the Salerno fire department, the 28th Combat Support Hospital, and the medics with 801st BSB."
The exercise provided an opportunity for Soldiers to refine their individual skills sets.
"Through the mass casualty event the medics are put through different scenarios," said Lt. Col. Gavin Lawrence, commander of the 801st BSB, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "They have to deal with patients with different types of injuries. They have to go through the decision making process, how to properly prioritize patients so that they are treated in a timely manner."
"So it gives them the confidence to deal with the various types of injuries they could deal with in a real life scenario and how to properly treat and assess casualties," Lawrence added.
The training exercise was also used as a validation event for the Currahee's medical training that they received back at Fort Campbell, Ky., and at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
"The personnel deploying here for the first time have been training hard in the rear, sharpening and honing their skills," explained Freeman. "It is definitely an eye opener for them and for us to see them apply everything that they have learned over the long and grueling months of training to finally see it all pay off and to see that they are more than capable to treat and save a life."
In addition to evaluating the individual readiness level of the combat medics, physicians and providers, the training event focused on something much bigger.
"It is absolutely important to build confidence in our ability to deal with mass casualty events," said Lawrence. "Our Soldiers that operate out forward can operate with absolute confidence because they know if they get hurt there is going to be a skilled medic or skilled physician that is going to take care of them."
The mass casualty event is one of the most complex situations that a brigade's medical treatment facility can potentially face, with practice being essential to the overall proficiency and effectiveness.
"You can never be too ready to do this, which is why we have MASCAL rehearsals," said 1st Lt. Brandon Jackson, the executive officer for Charlie Company, 801st BSB, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal is always the key to success, especially when it comes to a MASCAL situation."
The training allowed newer Soldiers to learn other important aspects of medical treatment that are just as necessary.
"Training like this is important because we don't get a lot of MASCALs, and when we do get them, it is nice to be well trained on them to be fresh with what's going on," said Spc. Mark Henning, a combat medic with Charlie Company, 801st BSB, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "You do learn a lot on the small things, like how to communicate with each other."