Fort Wainwright MSTC debuts K-9 First Responder class

By Eve BakerFebruary 10, 2021

The Medical Simulation Training Center at Fort Wainwright recently debuted a K-9 First Responder class designed to teach those who work with military working dogs how to provide them with emergency lifesaving care.

“We came up with a great one-day course to familiarize medics and non-medics on K-9 anatomy and life-saving interventions,” said Jonathan Choto-Helming, MSTC site manager and course coordinator. “We put our students through didactic as well as hands-on training in this course, and they go through a final culminating exercise where they practice everything they are taught in a combat-simulating environment.”

The course was developed primarily by Sgt. Erika Hemminger, an MSTC instructor, from protocols set by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Deployed Medicine, a program used by the Defense Health Agency. Hemminger also used input from the first class of students to refine the course.

“When we did our first class, we invited the working dog handlers and the vet techs. Without their support and their knowledge, the class would not be as successful as it is right now,” Hemminger said.

Topics covered in the class include “muzzling, moving to cover, massive hemorrhage, airway, circulation, hypothermia and then head to tail. We do a lot of hands-on intervention,” said Staff Sgt. Heath Cox, MSTC staff noncommissioned officer in charge.

The “hands-on intervention” is primarily practiced on Diesel, an ultra-lifelike canine medical training mannequin. Despite his eerily realistic appearance, Diesel is not a real dog.

According to a product flyer from Diesel’s manufacturer, TraumaFX, “K-9 Diesel is a state of the art skills trainer that includes active breathing, audio queues and over 28 different features and medical intervention sites. All training sites are designed to replicate the look, feel and function of actual medical procedures. Interchangeable limbs and injuries provide greater flexibility to vary wound patterns.”

Students were able to feel for Diesel’s “pulse,” which Hemminger and Cox controlled with a wireless remote. They were also able to practice intubation and tracheotomy, apply pressure dressings, and pack wounds that spurted artificial blood as realistically as a live animal, among other techniques.

For practical experience on an actual, live working dog, military police officer Sgt. Jonathan McCoy brought Dasty, a 3-year-old German shepherd to assist the students. Dasty regularly works as a patrol drug detector dog, but for the class, he graciously allowed students to feel for his pulse and practice a restraining hold on him. McCoy also pointed out unique features of canine anatomy for the students.

Hemminger stated the class will be offered roughly quarterly throughout the year, with the next sessions occurring in March. Once they have finished refining the course content, they will look into sharing it with other installations and agencies.