Fifty-six of the top Army medical specialists worked to provide prolonged field care to simulated casualties during the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Army Best Medic Competition Sept. 25 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
This year's competition had several changes including the location from Camp Bullis, Texas to JBLM. Another notable change was the types of casualties; some had fur. Lying wounded on the simulated battlefield were some the Army's most courageous and loyal service members, military working dogs.
"This was the first time military working dog casualties were incorporated into the competition," said Maj. Suzanne Skerrett, Public Health Activity-Fort Lewis veterinary clinical medical officer.
Sgt. 1st Class David Jordan, Public Health Command-Pacific noncommissioned officer in charge of operations, explained that in the past, the military working dog was an overlooked warfighter.
Restructured to focus more on the changing battlefield, this year's competition emphasized the importance of agility and how medics must adapt to better support all warfighters in any combat environment.
"Medics are more likely to see an injured dog first because we have a limited number of veterinary personnel downrange. They need to be capable of treating these dogs and providing that life-saving care at point of injury," explained Skerrett.
Medics had the chance to prove their military working dog life-saving skills during this year's competition.
To simulate the scenario, PHC-P provided four K9 HERO mannequins and a realistic medical emergency. PHC-P Soldiers provided medics access to realistic tools during the competition to help them assess the injured animals. Competitors performed critical life-saving tasks such as maintaining an airway, needle decompression/thoracocentesis, hemostasis, IV insertion, intraosseous infusion, CPR, tracheostomy, and bandaging.
"We coordinated with Telehealth so candidates could use the advisory line. We had veterinarian volunteers manning the phones and answering questions of the medics," said Skerrett.
For the organizers of this scenario, building a realistic experience was key.
"It is important to make sure medics and human medicine providers are aware of the basics to treat life-threatening injuries of military working dogs," Skerrett continued.
Looking forward, PHC-P will seek to modernize how medics respond to these types of scenarios in the future.
"Cross collaboration between the medical services is key and doesn't necessarily have to be sustained on a competition," Jordan said. "It can be sustained in a normal work environment. So we want to take what we learned from the competition and bring it back to the everyday environment and reach across the aisle and grab medics to come over and train with us."
"These dogs detect explosives and have patrol capabilities that save the lives of our Soldiers," Skerrett added. "By saving one dog you can actually save multiple humans as well."