By Mr. Gino G Mattorano (Army Medicine)October 29, 2015
Army medical personnel are expert at medical evacuations of service members, but what happens when the patient has four legs, instead of two?
Public Health Command-Europe recently took veterinary training to the next level for Military Working Dog handlers and MWDs from the 525th Military Working Dog Detachment at Mainz-Kastel Storage Station, Germany.
In emergency situations, a MWD handler is generally the first person to evaluate the dog, and initiate care. PHC-E provides semi-annual familiarization training for dog handlers that focuses on providing emergency care for MWDs. This month's training offered dog handlers tools to treat possible medical emergencies and how to evaluate and treat their MWD prior to and during MEDEVAC.
"We wanted to enhance the medical training that we normally do with the 525th MWD Detachment," said CPT Cassandra Framstad, the Branch Chief for Wiesbaden's Vet Clinic. "Also, MEDEVAC is generally used for serious medical emergencies and we wanted to focus on situations that could require this level of care."
PHC-E personnel and the MWD teams got the chance to test their skills in a realistic training environment at Clay Kaserne, working with a MEDEVAC flight crew from Illesheim.
"The training helped to familiarize PHC-E soldiers with the capabilities of in-flight care during MEDEVAC and how to safely conduct ourselves in and around a MEDEVAC helicopter," Framstad said. "An added bonus to this training is the enhanced training for the MEDEVAC flight medic to the unique medical needs of MWDs.
"During the training, we had five medical emergency scenarios and discussed the step by step of how the handler would evaluate and treat the dog and how the in-flight medic would continue treatment in the air."
The training gave MWD handlers and their dogs a chance for hands-on training designed to prepare them both, should the need for medical evacuation arise.
"This type of training helps handlers understand their dogs' reactions in different environments and under different stressful situations," said SSG Erik Rosengren, a MWD handler with the 525th MWD Detachment who participated in the training. "The training also helps MWD handlers learn, and practice necessary lifesaving skills to treat their dogs in the event of an emergency."
While the average dog wouldn't know how to react during a military exercise, MWDs receive years of training that prepares them to remain calm in highly stressful environments.
"Both MWDs that participated in this training reacted as if the training was just another day," Rosengren said. "Small issues of curiosity initially are normal, but as the training progressed the MWDs became more familiar and comfortable with their surroundings."
A key part of the training was familiarizing handlers and their MWDs with boarding, flying in, and de-boarding a helicopter.
"This training allowed the handlers the opportunity to see how their MWDs would respond in the event the team had to utilize this means of transportation," Rosengren said. "This also gave the handlers the opportunity to work and talk to medical treatment personnel aboard the helicopter to understand what information they need to know, as well different methods that they would use once an MWD is under their care."
Now that the dust has settled and the after-action reports are completed, both the PHC-E staff and the MWD teams felt the training was valuable.
"With the ever changing demands of military working dog mission, medical training is one of the constant variables," Rosengren said. "No matter where in the world a team is, medical knowledge of how to know, understand, and provide emergency care to your dog's medical issues is essential."
Framstad says that while this was the first time she has been a part of training like this and her first time riding in a helicopter, it was an incredible experience and they are already planning to integrate this into the annual training plan.
"The first time to learn the rules of helicopter safety shouldn't be while you're focused on trying to save an MWD's life," she said. "I am grateful to our airfield personnel and MEDEVAC crew for being so enthusiastic about making this training happen."