LANDSTUHL, Germany – Over 300 personnel at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center participated in Operation Courageous Ascent, a training exercise designed to test medical operations in austere environments, Nov. 17-19.
The exercise tested medical personnel on a variety of combat medical skills such as applying combat action tourniquets, casualty evacuation, dismounted patrolling, land navigation, movement under fire, communications protocol, identifying and reacting to improvised explosive devices and chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear attacks.
“Our mission out here is to prepare Soldiers to deploy in support of contingency operations,” said U.S. Army Maj. Denise Quintana, officer in charge of Operation Courageous Ascent and chief of Operations at LRMC. “We're training Soldiers to become proficient in Army Warrior Tasks, and Individual Critical Tasks Lists in order to survive on today's battlefield.”
The Construct for Implementation of Section 702 of the National Defense Authorization Act outlines the priority of operational readiness and support of war fighting and operational missions over the delivery of clinical/health care services, meaning military medical personnel must consistently maintain a high standard of critical lifesaving skills for mission-related operations. At LRMC, war fighting and operational requirements are validated through exercises like Operation Courageous Ascent and robust hands-on, practical training programs.
According to Quintana, the monotony of clinical settings may degrade uniformed medical personnel’s combat readiness, making training like Operation Courageous Ascent more impactful.
“Soldiers are eager to participate. It gives them a chance to exercise the warrior skills they were trained to do,” she explains. “Our end state is for LRMC to be a globally integrated, ready medical force, postured to support the Joint Warfighter and establish LRMC as the gold standard for readiness and ICTL training.”
As Soldiers patrolled through surrounding forests of the medical center, concurrent medical simulations occurred at LRMC’s Medical Simulation Training Center to refresh Soldiers on assessment and medical evacuations of combat casualties. For some, the experience offered an opportunity to participate in atypical roles outside of medical settings.
“I got a lot out of the training, I was actually a squad leader throughout the exercise,” said U.S. Army Spc. Richard Russell, a biomedical equipment support technician at LRMC. “There were things I haven’t even done since basic training such as reacting to indirect fire so it was pretty awesome to see it all again.”
In addition to refreshing Soldiers on warrior tasks and lifesaving operations, the exercise also introduced other uniformed personnel to Army training exercises, reflective of LRMC’s combined operations with U.S. Air Force counterparts.
“As an Air Force Service Member being integrated with an Army (squad), I felt that I was going to be singled out but it was actually a pretty good experience to be included as part of that team,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Danielle Miller, noncommissioned officer in charge, Pediatrics Clinic, LRMC. “You never know when you're going to be in (a combat) environment. Just having that familiarization with (combat operations), I think would be definitely beneficial. (The training) was showing me things that I'm not as used to doing as a medic. I'm looking at how I can help those people that have already been hurt as opposed to (clinical settings).”
“I would recommend the training to other Soldiers because I didn’t realize all the (warrior tasks) I had forgotten in just a year and a half of not participating in field exercises,” said Russell. “Getting refreshers such as these I feel is very important. If I had been put as a squad leader in a real life situation without the refresher I would have been in a really bad spot.”
The three-day exercise is the second training event of its kind this year for LRMC and the first since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, adding further stressors to the exercise as staff and participants exercised COVID-19 safety measures throughout the training.
As a Role 4 theater hospital, LRMC is responsible for the medical care of wounded, ill or injured warfighters evacuated from the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Central Command areas of operation. Exercises like Operation Courageous Ascent prepare LRMC medical personnel to implement lifesaving skills at the initial echelons of care, namely between the first contact made with the injured troop through when a decision has been made for medical evacuation to Germany.