By Michelle Kennedy, DrumJune 12, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 12, 2014) -- In current overseas operations, service members often find themselves working in joint environments. To add a little realism to their medical training, some 90 Navy corpsmen and staff officers came here to conduct medical training alongside Soldiers and Airmen.
Twelve detachments assigned to the Operational Health Support Unit, Portsmouth, Va., representing the northern United States -- from Maine to Virginia -- will finish their 10-day training at the Bridgewater-Vaccarro Medical Simulation Training Center, or MSTC, here, Friday.
Navy Lt. Jair Bentos-Pereira, officer in charge of the training, said the instruction provided the corpsmen and Soldiers an opportunity to enhance their combat life-saving skills. This is the second year in a row that the naval unit has trained here.
"When we deploy, we don't deploy as a single unit (all the time), especially in Navy medicine," he said. "We are usually thrown into a mix of various sister services, and that is something that the (Medical Simulation Training Center) has been able to provide here."
The training included hospital corpsmen basic skills, tactical combat casualty care, pre-hospital trauma life support, trauma nursing care, as well as combat triage, evacuation and health service support.
While some of the participants have deployed, others have not, according to Bentos-Pereira, adding that the exercise is a good opportunity to have the group work together, learn and enhance their skills.
"Throwing our Sailors into an environment that they aren't (familiar with) takes some getting used to," he said.
Many of the events participants must complete require them to respond to situations and communicate with each other under stressful conditions, including loud noises, simulated gun fire and explosions and smoke.
Bentos-Pereira said the unit has trained at different installations along the East Coast, and he added that the experience at Fort Drum has been well-organized and the staff here has provided excellent training.
Chief Petty Officer Sherman Price, senior enlisted leader in charge of the training event, said that while the simulations provide realistic training scenarios, no one can fully replicate combat.
"All we can do is create a stressful, difficult environment so they can train. We try to give them the best possible chance to react correctly when somebody requires care," Price explained.
By allowing Navy personnel, as well as members from other services to train here, the MSTC helps save Department of Defense funds because it enables units located in the Northeastern U.S. to avoid traveling longer distances to complete training requirements, according to Brian Peplinski, MSTC site lead. In addition to saving training money, the MSTC offers state-of-the-art training opportunities to military and civilian medical personnel.
"We're providing great resources for all the services coming here to train," he said.
Because many of the Sailors have never deployed, the MSTC training provides a "great start" for those who are new to the service, Price explained.
"For many of the Navy personnel involved, this is their first glimpse of combat training (out of boot camp)," Price added.
When the Sailors are selected for deployment, they will be required to complete additional training to get ready for combat, he said.
Last week, participants went through the MSTC's obstacle course portion of the training. Teams had to locate a "casualty," provide basic care and maneuver the dummy through an obstacle course complete with uneven terrain, hills, a water pit and a barbed wire challenge.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Christopher Conte, who has deployment experience, said as the teams went through the course, they began getting tired, especially toward the end.
"Things that usually come naturally, began breaking down," he said. "Sometimes things didn't move as fluidly as they did in the beginning (of the course). We just have to stop and remember how we are supposed to (complete the task)."
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Janee Blackwell said she has learned from her Army counterparts during the training and she looks forward to continuing to build on her readiness.
Hospitalman Cameron Palmer agreed.
"With a little more training, I think it will become second nature," he said. "Then, when we are in the situation, it will come more naturally."