FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Medics from the Connecticut Army National Guard’s 143rd Regional Support Group trained for a mass casualty event at Fort Drum.
From Aug. 11-13, medics attached to units across the 143rd Regional Support Group, including the 192nd Engineer Battalion, triaged and treated waves of simulated casualties at their Role 1, a mobile, tent-based facility to treat wounded personnel near the point of injury.
Role 1 facilities have a small footprint and thus do not have the equipment or staff to conduct complex medical interventions such as surgeries. They provide a central location for casualty collection where medics can perform immediate lifesaving methods. Patients are stabilized and then evacuated to a Role 2 facility.
Role 2s, usually at the brigade or higher level, are equipped with a trauma section and a lab where personnel can have X-rays and emergency dental treatment. Soldiers typically stay at this facility until they can return to duty or, if they require specialized care, be evacuated to a Role 3 facility.
After a medic received or came upon a casualty during the exercise, they performed tactical field care, part of tactical combat casualty care. TCCC is a process of assessing and applying lifesaving measures to stabilize the wounded for evacuation to a more advanced military medical facility, usually Role 2 or 3.
“We had a lot of patients with amputations of the extremities, large abdominal wounds, sucking chest wounds, respiratory distress, burns, fractures. We had patients with heatstroke, we had patients with shock,” said Cpt. Melissa D’Amato, a physician assistant for the 192nd Engineer Battalion. “The most common things we see [are the result of] indirect fire.”
As the casualties came in, there were radio requests for medical evacuation. The simplified radio transmissions ready an air or ground ambulance to transport a casualty from a Role 1 to a Role 2 or 3 military medical treatment facility — in this case, the 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion’s battalion aid station.
When a medevac request was received, the closest M997A3 ambulance from the 141st Medical Company (Ground Ambulance) traveled to the Role 1 and picked up the patient or patients. Each ambulance can transport four litter patients or eight ambulatory patients.
“I think this was the first time I actually had to care for more than one patient at a time,” said Spc. Riley Sullivan, a combat medic specialist and part of an ambulance team with the 141st Medical Company (Ground Ambulance). “I’m an EMT, civilian side, and we rarely have more than one patient that we are transporting.
“It was my first AT [annual training]. My squad leader was right next to me, and he was like, ‘You’re doing good, grab him, you have to be louder.’ I had to care for the person on top [rack of the ambulance], care for the person on the bottom. It was a little stressful.”
The ambulance traveled to the next prepositioned ambulance team and the patients were transferred to that team. The process continued until the patient reached the battalion aid station.
“It’s a lot of reassessments,” said Sullivan as she recounted her duties during the ride to the next ambulance team. “If they [the patient] have a tourniquet [applied], you have to make sure it is actually working and they’re not bleeding out. If it’s not [working], then you reapply another one. If [the medics who cared for the patient before being picked up by Sullivan] weren’t able to do secondary measures, maybe they haven’t given them antibiotics, that could be helpful.”
For the medics, this is their crucible. If the time comes, thanks to exercises like these, Connecticut’s medics will know what they need to do to save lives, and they will be ready.