Special operations medics are among the best trained and most proficient in the world. But, to maintain a high level of readiness, they must practice their skills in controlled environments under the mentorship of senior medical professionals.
As a 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) battalion surgeon, Maj. Hunter Winegarner assists in the planning and execution of medical training across the Group. On April 6th, Winegarner led a group of medics through some of the most realistic training Fort Carson has to offer.
"The best training is when they [Soldiers] are able to figure out the problems without input," Winegarner said. "Sometimes it's hard to convey what the difference is between real-life and training."
To help close that gap as much as possible, Group medics use the Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC) to provide realistic scenarios that they can work through. The MSTC provides training aids that simulate casualties who can bleed from their extremities, have difficulty breathing, and have eyes that are unresponsive to light.
"We have the ability to hook [the casualties] up to monitors, and they'll give real live feedback," Winegarner said. "They'll breathe, you'll see the rise and fall of the chest; if you were to listen to them you could hear the heart rate, you could hear the lungs."
Winegarner said they can make the casualty talk, blink, even look around.
The training tested medics on the multiple phases of caring for a casualty - from initial care under direct contact, all the way through the eventual evacuation of the casualty from a hostile environment.
"The first phase is care under fire, which is basically putting tourniquets on any major bleeding that's life-threatening," Winegarner said. "Other than that, you basically ignore any injuries until they're in a place that's safe for you and the patient to get more care."
Often, operators find themselves in areas where medical evacuation is not readily available, making it important for medics to know how to keep a casualty stable until that evacuation comes.
Making sure that these medics have the skills needed to address any situation is what makes training like this so important.
"You never want to have to use your medical skills," Winegarner said, "but, if a guy sustains an injury, having these skills is of the most importance."
"Hopefully, we'll never have to use them."