JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington -- Since January, Army doctors and nurses assigned to the Fort Belvoir (Virginia)-Troop Command have been donning surgical scrubs at Oregon Health and Sciences University Hospital, Portland, Oregon, as part of a unique military-civilian partnership between Army Medicine and OHSU, a Level 1 trauma center.
The Army Military-Civilian Trauma Team Training, or AMCT3, a two-to-three-year program, is designed to give Army medical Soldiers exposure to more severe trauma and surgical patients than they typically experience in a military treatment facility. Ultimately, maintaining and in some cases improving those skills preparing them to deploy with forward medical units or combat support hospitals.
Last week, Dec. 9-11, the six AMCT3 Soldiers found themselves in the rain and muck here supporting the 102nd Medical Detachment, Forward Resuscitative Surgical Team's field training exercise, Operation ESCUDO JUNGLA; testing their skills in a combat environment. During the exercise, the 102nd and AMCT3 Soldiers received multiple casualties suffering from minor injuries to life-threatening wounds.
For Maj. Stephen Wilcox, a critical care nurse, participating in the AMCT3 program, the experience has reinvigorated him in regards to patient care as he has been serving as the chief of patient safety at Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, for three years prior to volunteering for the inaugural AMCT3 opportunity.
"The idea of taking care of patients again seemed awesome," said Wilcox, who is serving as a staff nurse on OHSU's Trauma Surgical Intensive Care Unit. When you take care of patients, there is a certain fulfillment at the end of the day. You can see that you did something that people (the patients) appreciate what you do."
Because the AMCT3 program provides the medical and surgical experience necessary to treat those injured in battle, participating in exercises like this allows them to focus on being mission-ready and the importance of teamwork in a field environment.
"Just because I'm an officer doesn't mean I can't work," said Wilcox who began his Army career as an enlisted Soldier. "You see the NCOs (noncommissioned officers) and the enlisted on all the details and doing the extra work. I wanted to jump right in and help. You have to be cognizant that they are just as important as you. It's not about rank or role out here. It's the mission always. We're a team."
According to the 102nd Medical Detachment FRST Commander Capt Jason Muise, the phone call from Maj. Cody McDonald, officer- in-charge of the AMCT3 team, could not have come at a better time as the unit was in short supply of medical personnel as a result of the transition from a forward surgical team (FST) to an FRST.
McDonald and Muise looked at the positions and skills of the AMCT3 Soldiers and what the 102nd needed. Both thought it would be a good fit; providing the OSHU-based Soldiers with field-time and providing the new 102nd commander with the personnel to hold the unit's first FTX since taking command Aug. 23.
Muise said, as the 102nd continues its transition from an FST to an FRST, there have been some MTOE (Modification table of organization and equipment) changes, and those Soldiers have not arrived yet.
I haven't received those Soldiers yet, said Muise, a former staff nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center prior to taking command. "The AMCT3 team allowed us to start exercising as an FRST now ahead of getting our organic personnel.
The 102nd recently returned from a 9-month deployment to Syria in support of Inherent Resolve where the 21-Soldiers treated more than 600 surgical casualties, which according to Muise is unprecedented for an FRST.
"Going to the field during this exercise is something that FSTs or FRSTs really don't do in current operational environments like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan," Muise added. "They typically fall-in on hard-stand shelters with pre-positioned equipment."
That wasn't the case with this exercise. There were no hard-stand shelters or fixed buildings. The Soldiers had to inventory, organize and load all the equipment necessary ensuring mission accomplishment. They also had to set-up tents to provide medical care for the wounded and shelter for themselves.
Muise was impressed with how well the AMCT3 team assimilated with his Soldiers and said that this was a significant reason for the overall success of the exercise and the future readiness of all who participated.
"I was surprised at how well they integrated with my team so quickly," he said. "This speaks well of their professionalism as both medical officers and Soldiers."