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Deployment training reinforces critical skills

An Airman from the 59th Medical Wing performs sentry duty during a combat simulation as part of the Ability to Survive and Operate course Oct. 10, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The ATSO course takes Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing out of their traditional patient centric clinics and places them into a realistic combat settings and scenarios they may encounter in the real world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)

An Airman from the 59th Medical Wing performs sentry duty during a combat simulation as part of the Ability to Survive and Operate course Oct. 10, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The ATSO course takes Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing out of their traditional patient centric clinics and places them into a realistic combat settings and scenarios they may encounter in the real world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- On the grounds of the Air Force’s largest medical mobility mission, the 59th Medical Wing amplifies critical readiness and combat skills to enhance joint service integration downrange.

Most of the wing’s military personnel are assigned to one of several readiness teams, which act as building blocks to form Expeditionary Medical Support hospitals and a number of specialized units, all of which build from the foundation ATSO provides Airmen.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Johansen, ATSO course supervisor, leads a team of instructors who teach students the basics of operating in a joint deployed environment.

“A lot of this training gives us more of an ability to interact with our sister services,” said Johansen. “When it comes time to send an Airman down range, they can, for the most part, seamlessly integrate into any unit with the skills we’re teaching out here. You never know when an attack might happen, whether deployed or in garrison. We need to know how to function in our day-to-day duties with our weapons and skill sets because at the end of the day, we are tools of war and we need to know how to defeat whatever threat we may be facing.”

The training is comprised of three phases with emphasis on lifesaving skills, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense procedures, and combat skills, giving some students an opportunity to learn new skills and refreshing procedures and techniques. Despite level of skill set, the instructors turn the scenario into a full mass casualty with simulated gunfire and smoke causing maximum disorientation.

“We throw the students into a field casualty assessment and expect them to apply the patient-appropriate care under extreme conditions,” Johansen said. “Statistically speaking, 90 percent of combat related deaths happen before the patient can reach the hospital, so these skills can make all the difference between someone coming home or not.”

Instructors enhanced student’s continuum of learning by teaching skills that have been found to be consistently relevant at any point during a major conflict.

“The course was built from scratch following notification of the training requirements, and over time we’ve made tweaks and adapted the course based on student’s feedback and what we as instructors think we can improve on,” said Johansen. “The information has always been there, we just had to educate in a format that is most for effective for students to think critically and learn on the fly during a multifaceted combat operation.”

As the warfare requirements continue to evolve, the curriculum for mobilization medicine focuses on next generation lifesaving capabilities.

"We have been given the opportunity here to change how the Air Force trains our medical personnel and better ready them to perform their job in an ever changing theater of operations,” said Johansen. “With the skills we’re teaching here today, we’ll be able to win the battles that will inevitably happen tomorrow.”
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