Regional Training Site (RTS)-Medical staff members are expecting a busy 2018 doing what they do best: training Soldiers in setting up and running combat support hospitals (CSHs).
"We're a training platform ... to conduct collective medical training, meaning we train units on how to set up and take down and operate their combat support hospitals," said Col. Clifford Gehrke, RTS-Medical site director.
Fort McCoy's RTS-Medical is one of three regional training sites available to units in the Army Reserve. With 16 combat support hospital (CSH) units in the Reserve, Gehrke said, it is cost-prohibitive to equip every unit with a CSH just for training. Instead, units travel to one of the three training sites where Soldiers can learn how to set up a CSH, from planning its location to proper maintenance and operations once it's running.
The Soldiers who set up the CSH are the ones who keep it running in theater, Gehrke said, which means that while they're trained on things like transportation, generating electricity, and piping water, they're also trained as laboratory, X-ray, and biomedical equipment technicians and more. That's where the second part of RTS-Medical's mission comes in: individual training for low-density medical military occupational specialties (MOS).
A low-density MOS is typically a more specialized MOS with fewer people classified in it, Gehrke said. And while nurses and doctors typically work in the medical field in their civilian lives, a laboratory or X-ray technician might not.
"(Reservists) return back home, and they don't (always) have the opportunity to utilize those skills," Gehrke said. "We break off the rust and hone and polish those skills."
Instructor Mike Roth, a contractor with CSRA Inc. for RTS-Medical, said the equipment used at Fort McCoy is the same that Soldiers will use when deployed. Even those Soldiers who do work in the medical field as civilians may be used to different equipment. Training at Fort McCoy gives them a chance to practice on the same equipment they'll use in the field.
RTS-Medical at Fort McCoy also has the only CT scanner available for field training, Gehrke said. During medical exercises, RTS-Medical will move the expandable shelter containing the CT scanner out to the field so that units can incorporate it into the exercise.
RTS-Medical has three major exercises in 2018: Regional Medic Bridge Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) in March, CSTX in June, and Global Medic in August. In addition to helping units learn how to set up and operate a CSH, staff members train Soldiers in the art of moulage.
"Our instructors went to the Hollywood makeup school in Nevada to learn how to apply proper moulage," Gehrke said. "They're very highly skilled at what they do."
Moulage is the art of using makeup and/or prosthetics to realistically simulate wounds. They help Soldiers in medical professions learn what different types of wounds look like and can help decrease the likelihood of shock upon seeing an injury for the first time.
Like CSH unit Soldiers, RTS-Medical staff members - most of whom are contractors - are expected to handle more than one role.
"We have a finite number of staff, and many of them wear more than one hat. Many of them do five or six jobs," Gehrke said. During a large exercise, they'll be out in the field helping Soldiers run electricity, but during individual training, instructors might be teaching Soldiers how to operate or repair laboratory equipment instead.
RTS-Medical staff members are considered experts in their fields and were consulted in the latest revisions to the regulation for establish CSHs, he said.
"The foremost experts in combat support hospital establishment and disestablishment reside right here in RTS-Medical. You won't even find that sort of longevity in the active Army," Gehrke said. "These folks have been doing it, some of them, for close to 30 years."
In addition to training Reserve Soldiers, exercises bring in service members from throughout U.S. armed forces and even from other nations' armed services. Gehrke said Global Medic brings in service members from allied countries to learn how to work with international partners and deployable medical systems (DEPMEDS) equipment, which is approved by NATO for use throughout the world.
The 2017 Global Medic brought in service members from the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
RTS-Medical is a tenant organization at Fort McCoy. For more information on RTS-Medical, call 608-388-2544.