By Staff Sgt. Tanya Thomas, 4th IBCT, 3rd ID Public AffairsMarch 11, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Mortars hit Forward Operating Base Maintain the morning of March 4.
"Everybody get to the bunker!" yelled 1st Lt. Gary Clarkson to his troops.
The Soldiers scurried for cover and waited to hear the words 'all clear,' but when the dust finally settled, these troops assigned to a 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team medical company rushed back to their aid stations, dawned their surgical gloves and prepared themselves for the onset of wounded comrades.
While this was just a simulated situation during a mass casualty exercise on Fort Stewart, the training helped ready Company C, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th IBCT for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.
"You always have to allow the enemy to have a vote in your planning and the way you prepare for combat," said Lt. Col. Eddie Gillon, commander of 703rd BSB. "We always prepare for the worst. It's so important that we're prepared logistically and medically in the event that something bad happens out on the battlefield."
The Maintainer Battalion medics triaged more than 20 Soldiers during the MASCAL exercise - a culminating event after a two-week, 4th IBCT collective training operation known as Vanguard Focus. They treated all types of injuries, everything from gunshot and shrapnel wounds to amputations, rotating wounded troops through four field aid stations set up inside what became a chaotic, yet controlled, tent.
"It's so important that we really mash down a lot of pressure in the training environment just to replicate the long-term effect of the stresses in combat and not only prepare them for that but also prepare them for the trauma of multiple casualties," Lt. Col. Gillon said.
Private Cassandra Getgen, C Co. medic, helped categorize the wounded according to their injuries.
"You just have to stay focused and recall all the steps that you've learned" she said about remaining calm during a stressful situation. "You have to keep your mind and all your thoughts on that one patient (undergoing treatment) because there are tons of things going on."
Private Getgen added that the MASCAL training set a good ground for what it might be like in combat.
"It puts you in a stressful situation and keeps you on your feet," she said.
The MASCAL exercise was also a pretest for the medics' rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
"We don't want to go into the National Training Center exercise in April flatfooted, starting from zero," Lt. Col. Gillon said, adding that NTC will help Soldiers fine-tune any mistakes made during Vanguard Focus.
"I'm really excited about our opportunity to get this kind of training. You don't get this opportunity all the time. Company C has done an exceptional job; the medics are just on their game. I give them a solid A."