FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 18, 2014) -- There's no denying that the job of a Soldier is one that requires a great deal of discipline, dedication and training. In order to meet the mission, Soldiers must spend countless hours preparing themselves mentally and physically to meet the rigorous demands placed upon them. No matter how well prepared they are, illnesses and injuries are inevitable.It is when these maladies strike that Soldiers must rely upon a small group of specialty trained troops, whose purpose is to keep their battle brothers safe and healthy -- Soldier medics.
According to Capt. Ryan Murphy, officer in charge of Fort Drum's Bridgewater-Vaccaro Medical Simulation Training Center, or MSTC, that the job of a medic is especially complicated because of the wide variety of skills that these Soldiers must possess."To properly support the unit that they are with, they have to fully understand their unit's jobs, as well as their own," he said. "On top of everything else, they have this ever-broadening range of clinical skills that they have to maintain in order to do their jobs as medics."To ensure that they are optimally equipped to care for the comrades, 22 Soldiers and Reservist medics completed an intensive two-week Mountain Medic Course at Fort Drum's MSTC, Dec. 1-12.The 72-hour course is intended to refresh Soldiers' memories of life-saving skills, as well as to introduce them to the most up-to-date treatments and methods available.Staff Sgt. Joseph Conley, Basic Life Support program director for MSTC, said that the course not only meets the 48-hour Army-mandated annual training regimen for medics, it includes additional training that means medics also meet the requirements of nationally registered emergency medical technicians. The training is also catered specifically to the theater of operations that Soldiers will encounter while down range."We have training in this course that challenges even the more experienced medics to keep them engaged and fresh in their more advanced skills," he said. "These advanced lessons give the younger medics insight into the advances in their field as they move up the ranks and take on more responsibility."The course includes training modules on subjects such as tactical combat casualty care, suturing and properly applying dressings and bandages, administering injections and medications, airway management and much more.Maj. Martin Stewart, former MSTC officer in charge, gave a special presentation to the medics on orthopedic care and splinting in the field. Medics then had an opportunity to participate in a hands-on splinting lab, while Stewart checked their work.Pfc. Jason Werlinger, an orthopedic medic with Fort Drum's U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, said that orthopedic injuries are often looked at as less important than more traumatic injuries. When not properly treated in a timely manner, he said, they can become much more threatening."This course gives us an idea of how to treat the aches and pains that are a product of use," he said. "It extends the life of the joint and the endurance and longevity of the Soldier."Soldiers also had an opportunity to work with the high-fidelity tetherless manikin, a device with the ability to simulate human functions such as breathing, coughing, blinking and much more.Brian Peplinski, MSTC site lead, explained the manikin can be programmed to exhibit a variety of symptoms to help medics learn to quickly assess and diagnose a patient."You can administer an IV, perform any type of airway procedure, give it medication, and much more," he said. "All of this is recorded, and medics can watch a display of the manikin's vital signs as they administer treatment."Staff Sgt. Scott Anderson, a member of 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, who has deployed twice a medic, said that continued training is essential to maintaining one's skills and to ensuring that medics are able to act appropriately and without hesitation in an emergency."Learning in the classroom, you have the luxury of making mistakes or second-guessing yourself. When you're in an actual casualty situation, it has to be muscle memory -- it has to be something that is automatic for you," he said. "Your ability to deal with the stress of a casualty in a combat situation is aided by the knowledge that you know what you are doing."On Dec. 9, the medics participated in a hot-load medical evacuation exercise, which consisted of loading a simulated casualty into a UH-60M Black Hawk, taking a brief flight, and returning to the training area.Sgt. Zachary Vroebel said that he found this portion of the training especially valuable."It's been about two years since I did a hot-load, so it was important that I had an opportunity to practice those skills so that they are fresh in my mind," he said. "This new model that we just trained on is the Mike series (Black Hawk), and it has a few changes to the way you load patients as well as the approach and set-up of the helicopter itself."Vroebel said that practicing on the new model is valuable, as every minute counts in the event of a casualty situation.On Friday, the medics completed the validation portion of their course. Medics were split into teams, and they completed four different scenarios involving simulated casualties. They took turns assessing and making decisions about how to treat each casualty as the MSTC cadre assessed their skills.Murphy said that these trauma lane practices teach Soldiers to put all their skills together and challenge them to perform under duress."We present training scenarios that realistically match tasks they will need to perform in the field or down range," he said. "We make sure that their clinical skills are sharp, so that when they are back with their units, they can focus on unit responsibilities."At the end of the course, Conley said that he hopes the medics walk away feeling confident in their skills and abilities."We hope that everyone involved has learned something," he said. "We want to open their eyes to possibilities they may face as a medic and build the confidence of every single person, (so that) they know they are able to give the best care possible on the battlefield every day."