News: Alpha Surgical Company conducts realistic predeployment training
Story by Cpl. Timothy Childers
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - As soon as the Humvee arrived, the Shock Trauma Platoon corpsmen sprang into action. They focused all their energy on the task at hand: training to save lives.
Sailors with Alpha Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a mass casualty drill aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 10, 2013. The drill was part of the unit’s predeployment training in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan with Combat Logistics Battalion 7.
During the exercise, the company constructed a Forward Resuscitative Surgical System supported by a Shock Trauma Platoon. FRSSs and STPs are small, mobile units consisting of enlisted and commissioned sailors who provide trauma care to combat casualties. The STP receives patients from the battlefield and provides the first echelon of immediate support. If a patient cannot be stabilized by the STP, they are sent to the FRSS for surgery.
“For every drill, [the trainers] brought in anywhere from 6 to 7 patients,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Leeroy E. Colon, corpsman, Alpha Surgical Co. “Our job is triaging them at the gate, checking to ensure they are not carrying harmful weapons and taking them into the STP to treat their wounds.”
The role-playing patients wore prosthetics to simulate injuries that may be sustained on the battlefield. It is important for the scenarios to be as realistic as possible to prepare the medical staff for real-life operations.
“We had subject matter experts from [Naval Medical Center San Diego] and Camp Pendleton come down to help us,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joe L. Pinon, commanding officer, Alpha Surgical Company. “We also have a training group to give us [a realistic] experience during the exercise, using the training aids they provided.”
Some of the prosthetics used included amputated limbs, shrapnel wounds and even a cut suit, containing fake organs, arteries and pumping blood.
“We have a cut suit that enables surgeons to cut open the patient’s simulated body cavity,” said Pinon. “It’s excellent training for the surgeons, but it is also great training for the sailors, [surgical technicians] and nurses because surgeons don’t work alone; they work as a team. The sooner we get these guys working together as a cohesive team; they will be able to take care of patients better in theater.”
Many of the sailors had never treated actual casualties. The training scenario provided them with a glimpse of the challenges they may face during a real mass casualty.
“This is my first time working with a Shock Trauma Platoon, and I thought the training was very valuable,” said Colon, a native of Ellenville, N.Y. “A lot of us haven’t had the experience of seeing real-life trauma patients. This is as close as we get to the real thing. These simulations and exercises help us out a great deal.”
First Surgical Company will be part of the last major Marine command, I Marine Expeditionary Force, to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.