Patrick hosts joint medical readiness exercise

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Leslie Forshaw
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
More than 200 Air Force reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing here participated in MEDBEACH 2015, a joint-service medical readiness exercise July 9-12 to prepare rescue Airmen for real-world wartime emergencies.

The 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron conducted the exercise to prepare medical personnel for deployments by providing realistic scenarios that they may see during a wartime situation. The exercise also provided reservists an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with their active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Army counterparts.

"Airmen, especially the new ones, need to know, or have an inkling of what's going on before they get there ," said Lt Col. Manuel Gonzalez, 920th ASTS assistant chief nurse.

MEDBEACH 2015 is designed not only to provide realistic training, but do it on a budget that saves taxpayers up to $1 million by having it locally.

The exercise started with training on electronic medical records management and round-tables teaching how to coordinate medical staging while overseas. The exercise also included scenarios to incorporate exercise requirements of mass causality, natural disaster, disease containment, and chemical, biologic, radiologic, nuclear and explosive warfare.

"We have to make sure this information is not only passed on, but updated as new people come in and out and the times change," Gonzalez said.

A C-17 Globemaster III and C-130/H rescue aircraft were flown in to provide a staging platform for the 'meat and potatoes' of the exercise - stabilization and transport of battlefield-injured service members. This part of the exercise not only addressed the medical aspect of the patient transport, but provided the perfect opportunity for the ASTS Airmen to train together.

"It creates a cohesive unit," said Maj. Stephen Grant, 920th ASTS training coordinator. "By completing these drills in as a realistic situation possible, it creates investments in each other; we know how each other work and it builds on the wingman concept. We train together and go to war together."

These drills are essential to getting an injured service member off of the battlefield, determining what care is needed and then getting that patient either back to the United States, or patched up to get back to duty, said Gonzalez.

There are certain steps taken during wartime injuries, and Rescue Airmen play a vital role in getting these injured patients the care they need. From the time of injury, it's a mad rush to get that patient off the battlefield and to the care they desperately need as fast as possible.

The minute the service member is injured, first aid is administered on site, while a call for help is dispatched to the nearest rescue facility. Then, a recovery unit is sent to pick up the patient - usually a rescue helicopter - and take them to the closest combat hospital where they are evaluated by ASTS to determine their medical needs.

Depending on that outcome they are sent back to the U.S. for continuing care, or back to duty.

The survival rate is more than 90 percent due to efficient patient movement system, Grant said. But due to fiscal constraints and limited manpower, it can be a challenge to keep medical Airmen trained on the latest and greatest.

"New people coming in are getting less and less opportunity to train due to budget constraints," said Senior Master Sgt. Tony James, 920th ASTS superintendent of operations. "We have to download this information to them."

This type of training allows not only the hands-on capabilities, like simulated injured Airmen needing medical care, to coordination of flights, but keeping accountability for patients and fellow medical personnel, said Staff Sgt. Brent Wilkins, 920th ASTS noncommissioned officer in charge of seasonal training for new Airmen.

"This exercise will get those Airmen ready to hit the ground running when deployed," Wilkins said.

Participation in this exercise prepares Airmen for their future deployments and it also comes with a certification for continuing credit hours for most medical or nursing school programs if an Airman is enrolled in school, Grant said.

Overseas, especially during war, it is not unusual to be working with members of another branch of service. When it comes to saving lives, service branch does not matter.

"No one has ever asked me what branch of service or what rank I am," said Grant. "We are a team; a team saving lives."

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