Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) conducted a casualty surge exercise along with U.S. European Command’s multi-national DEFENDER 23 exercise to prepare Soldiers and Airmen for real-world contingencies. The exercise was designed to test organizational response, and medical capacity and capabilities of LRMC while building readiness and interoperability across its medical sections, June 7.
The exercise augmented a USEUCOM DEFENDER 23 Strategic Evacuation mission, where a simulated mass casualty event tested medical evacuation efforts from Mihail Kogalniceau (MK) Air Base Romania, concluding at LRMC with treatment and stand up of the hospital's Emergency Operations Center to provide command and control of various medical assets and partners.
When asked about the strategies or techniques employed during the exercise to ensure effective teamwork and coordination among the participating units, Robert Thaxton, emergency medicine chief, pointed out the biggest challenge they faced was communication between the different groups.
“Making sure everyone is talking and sharing information is something we deal with every day in emergency medicine, but we managed to overcome it successfully", said Thaxton. “These realistic training scenarios highlight how important clear communication and teamwork are and how we can improve to prepare for future events and handle high-pressure situations effectively.”
Ultimately, the exercise aims to increase interoperability and collaboration between the only American College of Surgeons-verified Level II Trauma Center overseas and its partners, while providing response opportunities for participating staff and increasing overall organizational and individual readiness.
"Our medical center is always prepared because we are the only one outside of the continental United States serving all the combatant commands in this region," explained Lt. Col. Kirk Giles, Chief, European Medical Simulation Center, LRMC. "And we're not alone in this responsibility."
Giles emphasized the importance of readiness and teamwork. He described the unique challenges they faced, saying, "We were expecting a several small surge of patients, not just a typical mass casualty situation where patients arrive all at once. We've been in communication with various medical teams, including our own emergency operation center, Air-Force, and Critical Care Air Transport Team teams."
Giles highlighted the need to handle different types of injuries and ensure smooth transitions between specialists. He concluded, "This surge is not overwhelming for us because we are well-equipped. We're dealing with an ongoing challenge that requires us to work together beyond our usual operations."
While emergency medicine technicians are commonly the first to answer calls for support, exercises like the casualty surge also test response and capabilities of all clinical staff, no matter which department they are assigned.
"This exercise enhances my skills and prepares me to respond effectively to (contingency) situations by providing a comprehensive understanding of alarm systems and how the obstetrics department can contribute to patient care,” said Maj. Marimon Maskell, LRMC chief of women’s health service line “It also enables me to evaluate and enhance our department's processes professionally.”
Central to the success of LRMC's exercise are a series of key tasks illuminating the response. With precision, medical professionals executed the Emergency Management Plan, seamlessly integrating response operations as a Level II trauma center, establishing effective communication channels both internal and external, harmoniously coordinated intra-theatre evacuations with U.S. Air Force and NATO partners, and diligently captured invaluable observations and lessons to enhance emergency responses in the future.
Maskell goes on to add “On a personal level, (the exercise) improves my clinical skills and equips me with the mental resilience needed to manage stress and intense situations, ensuring that we are well-prepared to handle real events with confidence."