By Capt. Chad E Cooper (Irwin)March 14, 2013
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- "DOC" This call has been heard on battlefields for centuries, Army medical personnel have responded to the challenges of treating, evacuating and caring for Soldiers casualties since the first battles of war. Combat Medics assigned to Higher Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, are the constantly training to ensure Soldiers receive the best medical care at the ambulance exchange points (AXPs) until they are taken off the battlefield for further treatment.
"During the Decisive Action training rotation, Sgt. Jonathan Birkey is the medical noncommissioned officer in charge of the AXP Combat Medical Readiness Training. The goal is to have Soldiers trained to the point that treating patients is innate and instinctive, said Birkey. "I am teaching my Soldiers how to conduct tactical combat casualty care, which includes controlling bleeding, treating chest wounds and clearing airway obstructions in a realistic training environment, similar to what they may face on the battlefield," The Combat Medic or "68 Whiskey" military occupational specialty is the second-largest in the Army, with nearly 38,000 medics spread across the active and reserve components. Only the infantry specialty has more Soldiers in the force. The combat medic was established during World War II-prior to that enlisted medical personnel served as hospital stewards or litter bearers. The medics typically are deployed at the platoon level, with each medic responsible for about 40 troops. But they do not initially earn the coveted title "doc," Birkey said. First, they must prove they are part of the team. "If the platoon is filling up sand bags, grab a shovel. Unfortunately, the fastest way to earn the title is to have something bad happen and for the medic to do everything right, he said. Medics are known for their selfless courage, often charging into dangerous situations to stabilize and evacuate their fallen comrades. Their initial training is comprehensive, but combined with their predeployment training and practical experience; combat medics are indispensable battlefield assets.
New medical evacuation policies are expediting Soldiers to treatment facilities faster and in better medical condition, reinforcing our commitment to the best and most timely care, said PFC Emily Curran a 68W assigned to Higher Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. "The training we are conducting here at the AXP keep my skills current ensuring our Soldiers know if they are in need our of help we are right there to save them."
The AXP is a battlefield multiplier for commanders ensuring Soldiers receive the immediate care for Soldiers while limiting the amount of combat power to maintain it. The medical planners decide where to establish the AXP before the battle even begins. Medical planners which usually consist of the personnel officer, medical platoon leader, medical company commanders, combat health support officer, brigade surgeon use ambulance exchange points (AXPs) when the distance between medical treatment facilities (MTFs) is too distant for one evacuation platform to evacuate the casualties the total distance. Medical planners and operators use AXPs when it would be more effective to have the casualty transferred on to another evacuation platform between the sending and receiving medical treatment facility, thereby freeing up the evacuation platform to transport more casualties. An AXP is not only used for the transfer of casualties between ground evacuation platforms, it can be a location where the transfer of causalities occurs between a ground and air evacuation platform. Normally an AXP is used for the transfer of patients between different types of platforms as opposed to transfer between like vehicles, which can only delay evacuation. In these cases where transfer will occur between like platforms, medical planners should consider exchanging vehicles or crews as opposed to unloading and reloading patients onto the vehicle.
The training at the AXP includes hemorrhage control; airway management; treatment of a variety of different types of penetrating trauma; IV hypertensive fluid resuscitation; and triage and evacuation using both air and ground support. In addition, Soldier medics are taught force health protection measures and limited primary care skills. Their training culminates with both situational and field training exercises, where they must demonstrate individual- and team-level medical skills. Upon completion of their training they must be capable of managing trauma patients on the battlefield. "The training that we are learning makes me feel more confident in my abilities as a medic to be able to operate in any environment, said Pfc Erica Ford a 68W, assigned to HHT, 2/11, 11th ACR, "Staying up with the continuous and rapid changes in battlefield medical care helps to make every Combat Soldier a learning medic in a learning organization, dedicated to conserving the fighting strength and saving lives in combat"
"This training is absolutely essential to saving lives. I had a Soldier who may not be alive today if it were not for the training I had undergone similar to this type of training here at the AXP," said Birkey. "This is the training I would want my son or daughter to have, because it absolutely saves the lives of our Soldiers on the battlefield."