CAMP TAJI MILITARY COMPLEX, Iraq -- Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Coalition forces call out for help as flames burn in the mid-morning light after a simulated gas bottle explosion during a mass casualty training exercise, Jan. 18, 2018.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade and coalition soldiers from New Zealand, Singapore and Australia worked together to simulate a real-world training scenario. The exercise provided hands-on experience in a combat situation if a flood of wounded patients came to the Camp Taji Role Two Enhanced Medical Facility.
"These exercises are made to stress the system with a larger number of patients than you would normally see, so you can iron out all the kinks when it's practiced," said Capt. Brian Morey, an aeromedical physician assistant assigned to the 1st Battalion, 126 Aviation Regiment, 449th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The exercise began with the simulation of the gas bottle explosion in a work location that injures numerous soldiers. Medical personnel on site started to render aid to wounded soldiers as they waited for the arrival of the medical evacuation team to transport the wounded to the nearest medical facility.
"The point-of-injury care will occur wherever the injury happens," said Morey. "The event happens at an unknown, distant site. You have your buddy aid, your Combat Life Saver or if there are medics, they respond. That is your immediate life-saving measure."
Morey explained that the incident is called to the medical facility and a medical evacuation team transports wounded personnel to the nearest medical facility. After arriving at the medical facility, the wounded are met by a medical liaison.
"You have your triage area or your patient receiving," said Morey. "As they are being received, there is someone out here that is the triage officer actually looking at the patient, receiving the report from the medic that treated them at the site and depending on the level of severity will get triaged based on that."
The facility at Camp Taji is overseen by the Australian army and allows the various forces to integrate effective medical procedures despite their different backgrounds.
"When it comes to a mass casualty we are all working together, but essentially we have a Singaporean team in charge of the recess (re-cessation bay) and the New Zealand team is in charge of the primary health care," said Australian Army Maj. Greg Button, the senior medical officer at the Taji Role Two Medical Facility. "We also have the American Role One with us. They help manage the other recess bay in a mass casualty situation."
Camp Taji is one of five Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity locations dedicated to training partner forces and enhancing their effectiveness on the battlefield. Pre-planning and cross training is critical to ensuring they can support any medical situations that can arise. Morey said there aren't any physician's assistants in the Australian Army so the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade facilitates this need.
"We wanted to be included, because it is very feasible that if there was a mass casualty we have providers and medics that are available to help," said Morey. "We pre-planned this with them well in advance, because they are not only taking care of their own Soldiers but pretty much everybody here on base. In the weeks leading up to this we had them come down and see our equipment and aid stations and talked about our capabilities."
The 449th Combat Aviation Brigade provides aviation combined strategic partnership training with regional military partners in order to conduct multinational training events. Morey said medical personnel assigned to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade trained 27 coalition forces soldiers on patient loading operations on a UH-60 Blackhawk, which also tied into the training.
"We did a walk-through of the danger areas of the aircraft, how to approach it and how the patients are loaded," said Morey. "We showed them the inside and the capabilities of how to sustain a patient inside the aircraft. This was a culminating event that we added to the mass casualty exercise so they can actually load a patient on an aircraft at a real location and test their whole system."
This training is part of the overall Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity mission, which focuses on training and improving the capability of partnered forces fighting ISIS.
"This gives the medics a chance to work with multinational forces," said Morey. "It really does a lot for building those experiences."