Preparing for the grim and training the best; MFST and ECCT ready to save lives downrange
By Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes , 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 30, 2015
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- “I love my job; taking care of the people out there fighting for us. Being able to take care of people that may be on the brink of death, and then see them get up and walk out is the best part,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Rothlisberger, Mobile Surgical Field Team respiratory technician.
In the last decade the military has continuously supplied men and women to the frontlines throughout the AOR. When a situation doesn’t go as planned and casualties are sustained, their lives depend on self-aid buddy care and, more importantly, the airmen of the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group’s Mobile Field Surgical Team and Expeditionary Critical Care Team.
The MFST is comprised of a general surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist, operating room technician, or nurses and respiratory technicians with nine members in total. Complementing the mission is an intensive care unit doctor, an ICU nurse, and a respiratory technician, known as an ECCT.
“These airmen are constantly postured to forward deploy within three hours of notification,” said Lt. Col. Steven Chen, 379th Expeditionary Medical Group MSFT general surgeon.
Chen said that when they arrive to their or destination they are able to set up facilities, unpack supplies and begin providing medical care to those wounded or injured within an hour.
This mobile hospital setup in an austere environment is not sleight of hand. Each team is sent to intense, fast-paced, warrior mind-set training prior to and during each deployment. Focusing on their medical backgrounds, these airmen train to keep each other safe while applying medical care in a hostile environment if the situation arises.
“All of us at homestation are doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons, but do get training before coming out here,” said Chen. ”The training is Expeditionary Medical Support; they teach us how to set up in an austere environment and take care of patients, critically ill patients and also to do surgery. “
The airmen are also sent to Combat Airman Skills Training, a pre-deployment environment where airmen are prepared for the possibility of combat or security situations and how to survive. This type of training is not the ‘norm’ from their day-to-day operations at home stations. Even with all the prior training, MSFT is a capability that is rarely used, but extremely important to current deployed operations.
“With the ops tempo these days, there is not as much fighting going on, so we are like a safety net and only go out when there is a real need,” said Chen. “But what does happen more frequently is we do exercises.”
In addition to in-house weekly training, MSFT and ECCT also travel to conduct joint training and real-life scenarios aboard ships and in several other locations. They also support larger exercises like Eager Lion, an international force exercise for conventional and unconventional threats.
The training that the airmen conduct on a weekly basis keeps them sharp and prepared. Scenarios are constructed and timed making sure each team member knows and understands their specific roles when the time comes.