By Jacquelyn R. SlaughterNovember 7, 2012
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- As the sounds of gun fire and mortar round explosions filled the air, a small group of Reserve Soldiers rush into a darkened room only to be exposed to bright strobe-like flashes that nearly blinded them.
Casualties with multiple injuries were scattered throughout the room as a medic knelt beside a Soldier with amputated legs and a gash on his forehead.
The noise of pain and confusion added to the mixture of an already chaotic environment for the medics assigned to the 200th Military Police Command.
After the medics placed tourniquets and a bandages on the injured, lights in the room flickered on to reveal instructors with notepads standing in the corner.
The warfighters were participating in a situational training event at the Army Combat Medic Sustainment Course at the Medical Simulation Training Center here.
One of those medics going through the course, Spc. Alec Wimberly, said having seasoned combat medic instructors was important to the success of the intense course.
"The cadre here are great," said Wimberly, a native of Mesa, Ariz. who is assigned to the 56th Military Police Company. "They are well-trained in their area and scope. A bunch of them have been deployed, so they know what they are talking about."
The facility, which opened in 2009, is one of two Army Reserve training centers which provide medical simulation equipment to train Soldiers and medics in battlefield medicine.
The 10-day training event is critical to ensuring Army Reserve medics maintain their life-saving skill sets.
As the Army Reserve has been supporting combat operations for more than a decade, many of the medics have several mobilizations under their belt and bring their own unique experiences to the classroom, said Master Sgt. Bruce Kaufman, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the MSTC.
Kaufman said each student was challenged to not only meet requirements but go beyond those requirements. One of those challenges was to give an intravenous stick to another Soldier in a room with dim lighting.
"If you think every intravenous stick is going to be under bright white light, you are so wrong," said Ray Layne, a technical instructor and course developer at the MSTC.
During the intravenous sticks and other hands-on training exercises, instructors worked one-on-one with each student to ensure they understood what they were doing right and wrong.
Many of the Reserve Soldiers who attend courses at the MSTC are part of non-medical units. Kaufman said it is important students learn the correct way to perform medical care.
"If it's gonna reinforce bad training, we will stop you," said Layne. "We have a motto here, 'we'll let you fail, but we won't let you fail.' We want everyone to succeed when they leave here."
The final test of the course included the Emergency Care Simulator room, which contains mannequins which bleed, breathe and kick their legs to imitate lifelike battlefield scenarios.
Kaufman, an Army medic since 1972, said putting Soldiers in a difficult environment is essential to testing their battlefield skills.
"It's one thing if a student can practice their skills inside the classroom, but what matters the most is whether they can utilize these skills when there is chaos all around," he said.
At the end of the course, Soldiers walked away with refreshed and new knowledge of medical skills and equipment.
"When they walk out of here, they have their battlefield skills maintained, and they are prepared for trauma management," said Kaufman. "Almost everybody walks away from here much more confident than when they came in here."
Maj. Gen. Sanford Holman, commanding general for the 200th MPCOM, said it is his responsibility to ensure all of the Soldiers assigned to the command are trained, equipment and ready to mobilize in support of all types of operations.
"Sure, we are a military police command, but we have hundreds of low density skill sets such as medics, engineers and public affairs specialists that must also maintain their proficiency. My staff is dedicated to all our formations and will work hard to ensure we have the most technically and tactically proficient Soldiers in the Army Reserve."