FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Army News Service, Dec. 4, 2006) - It's almost too realistic: the darkness, smoke, flashing lights, yelling, bodies strewn across the ground, blood - all used in a new Fort Drum facility designed to ready military medical professionals for combat emergencies.

Combat medics, surgeons and healthcare providers can now get intense training at the Fort Drum Regional Medical Training Simulation Center. Fort Drum was chosen by the Army and Defense Department to house the first such facility, which opened in March and will test participants' stamina and skill with environmental challenges and a computer-based patient simulator.

Students will be "learning lessons off the battlefield that they don't teach in basic (training)," said Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, 41st Army surgeon general and commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command. "You don't want to wait to learn the hard lesson on the battlefield. The more lifelike the training, the better Soldiers do in combat."

The center contains four classrooms and four patient-simulation testing rooms. From control booths, trainers can control smoke, temperature, lights, sounds, blood, breathing and other environmental stressors. In one room, the floor is covered with sand and a life-size picture of Afghanistan covers the walls.

On manikins hooked up to a computer to monitor the treatment medics administer, students can practice intubations, tracheotomies, delivering babies, inserting catheters, applying splints, treating sucking chest wounds and inserting IVs.

"The purpose of the training center is to recreate the sights, sounds, situations and even smells of the combat medical environment so that our doctors, physician assistants, medics and non-medical Soldiers may learn life-saving interventions in order to keep our Soldiers alive on today's battlefields," said Lt. Col. Andrew Kosmowski, 10th Mountain Division surgeon.

"The computer-driven manikins can breathe, bleed, blink and even talk to give the medic the feedback needed to manage treatment," he said.

More than 14 acres of outdoor training also are available for IED training, patient extrication, and helicopter loading and training.

While the facility will be most used by Fort Dum medical personnel, it is also available for use by other DoD agencies in the Northeast.

"The kind of training that goes on in this building is having a direct effect to make Afghanistan and Iraq more survivable for our Soldiers," Kosmowski added. "We've created a standard and will see the results on the battlefield," he said.

(Hannah M. Hayner writes for the Fort Drum Blizzard.)