By Scott Curtis, First Army Public AffairsAugust 31, 2011
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Aug 31, 2011 -- Ask any infantry Soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan how important the combat medic is to his unit and you will receive a wide array of answers, but most would acknowledge a true combat medic is worth his or her weight in gold. When seconds count, the basics of emergency medicine take over, and those basics must become second nature.
The word stress really doesn't describe what combat medics experience downrange, where the ability to remain focused and calm are paramount. The confidence that comes with experience on the battlefield cannot be replaced, but when combat medics are not deployed down range, maintaining a Combat Life Saver, or CLS, certification helps keep those skills sharply honed.
First Army, as an executive agent to U.S. Forces Command, has the critical mission of training and validating all Army National Guard and Army Reserve units throughout the United States. The most realistic training available for these reserve component Soldiers resides at the 24 Medical Simulation Training Centers, or MSTCs, Army-wide. During Exercise Vibrant Response 12 the 62nd Medical Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., was trained to better achieve their mission objectives.
Some of the best teaching tools available at the MSTC are the four validation rooms. Once inside a validation room, combat medics are tasked with treating a "medical mannequin" with injuries while audio designed to simulate the sound of combat is played.
The idea is to "immerse the Soldier into as close of a real environment as we can. We simulate a combat situation. When they go into that situation, and they check the mannequin, he is actually breathing. He may be bleeding and if they don't treat him appropriately, then the mannequin will simulate dying," said Thomas Deen, the Emergency Medical Technician Medic coordinator here.
A video camera records the actions of the combat lifesaver, and the resulting DVD, which is taken back to the unit, becomes a powerful training tool.
"They can take (the DVD) back to the unit, and that unit gets to say, 'wait a minute, this isn't what we expected,'" explained. Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Fodrie, the MSTC noncommissioned officer in charge. "'We expected you sit on the armory floor and watch PowerPoint's all day about Combat Lifesaver.' Realism is the key."
"One of the limitations of conventional training is that the instructor has to be present, and we give cues and we give them guidelines, so they may pay more attention to the instructor that they do the actual scenario. By removing the instructor from the environment, they have to pay more attention to the actual patient," Fodrie said.
When new lifesaving procedures are learned in theater, the challenge becomes relaying the knowledge to units in the States. The MSTC establishes a standardized, rapid system of exporting new information and skills as quickly as possible, which translates to lives saved.