By Sgt. Darlene MartinezMay 13, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - In an effort to enhance expeditionary medical readiness capabilities and improve emergency care in a combat environment, Soldiers of 511th Military Police Battalion conducted an exercise April 27 with Company C, 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The exercise required Soldiers from the Guardian Battalion to load and unload "patients" from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.
"This is a great opportunity for the 511th to conduct this type of training. I want them to get familiarized with taking instruction from the medics and also get familiar with the aircraft," said Capt. Shawn Eidsness, 91st Military Police Battalion plans officer.
Because of its ability to rapidly reach patients on any terrain, the helicopter is the primary vehicle for emergency transport. The Blackhawk is the Army's front-line utility helicopter used by aero-medical evacuation units.
"The litter carry isn't the hard part," said Staff Sgt. Brian Cammack, Company C, 3-10 GSAB enlisted helicopter flight instructor and crew chief. "The hard part is communicating in a noisy environment."
Soldiers split the training into three phases: a hands-on portion covering basic litter carry procedures, which can weigh up to 300 pounds downrange due to added equipment; a class on important safety procedures for loading and unloading patients from helicopters; and the joint exercise, in which troops carried and loaded patients onto the helicopter.
Because helicopter blades cause such a downdraft, emphasis was placed on the necessity of constant communication between Soldiers and the pilots and crew.
The volume of noise helicopters generate requires the pilots and crew to mainly convey directions to those on the ground through hand and arm gestures.
"This may seem like we're coming off rude to the ground crew, but we're really just trying to account for all the people and emphasize that safety is the most important thing," Cammack said.
The communication challenge and the windy weather added to the realism of the training scenario.
"This training was outstanding," said Lt. Col. Carl Packer, 91st Military Police Battalion commander. "It really allowed (the Soldiers) to get the hands-on training they need for when they deploy and provided a more realistic scenario than any simulation could have provided."
Eidsness said the work expended to coordinate the exercise was worth it, and he hopes to continue arranging training with the 10th CAB.