News: Arrowhead Soldiers play a part in Operation Alaska Shield
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Simulated patients from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to include a number of Soldiers from 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, were wheeled in on military litters, April 1, as part of an exercise, “Alaska Shield.”
Army nurses from Madigan Army Medical Center, with assistance from 3-2 SBCT Soldiers, moved patients from station to station. They entered patients' information into a mobile database and prepared them for transport to one of several hospitals, with some as far south as Olympia and others as far north as Seattle.
The exercise, which simulated a 9.2 earthquake similar to the one that struck Anchorage, Alaska, March 27, 1964, was designed to test a coordinated interstate response by federal, state and local authorities from Washington and Alaska.
Locally, the medical staff from MAMC was focused on meeting the needs of those patients that were injured enough to be flown to JBLM for treatment.
"We look at the whole patient as they're coming through; it's more than just disaster triage," said Iraq veteran Capt. Rebecca Lee of Madigan Army Medical Center. "As soon as I receive a report on a patient, I'm communicating with them; I'm telling them what's going on around them if they're able to respond to me."
Lee, who hails from Spokane, Wash., explained that her team is prepared for any situation that may arise, from providing immediate stabilization to addressing any sort of emotional care.
Had this emergency been real, patients would have reached Lee’s team via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft specially designed for medical care with racks designed to stabilize litters and keep patients safe and comfortable during their flight.
Loading the patients aboard these large aircraft is a task unto itself, which is why Capt. Rodney McMichael with the U.S. Air Force 43rd Operations Group, Fort Bragg, N.C., was on the flight line instructing 3-2 SBCT Soldiers on how it should be done.
"The primary purpose is for when we're in a tactical environment and the engines are running onboard the aircraft," said McMichael. "It's all about patient safety. Everyone has synchronized movements so that a patient isn't dropped or anyone…isn't injured."
The instruction was fairly straightforward, enabling Soldiers like Afghanistan veteran Spc. Randall Cheek with 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, to learn how to load and offload should the need ever arise.
"The main thing (they taught us) is how to properly carry a litter and better litter commands," said Cheek. "That helps us carry the litter faster and more carefully so our patient isn't jarred so much. It helps you help the patient."
Throughout the process, from loading the patients at the scene of the disaster to offloading them at the point of disembark, patient communication is necessary.
"With the understanding that this is the aftermath of a disaster, communication is paramount," explained Lee. "If I don't communicate with my patients, their outcomes could be worse. If I don't tell them what's going on, what to expect and how we're trying to help them, they're going to be more anxious and it actually gets in the way of healing."
Over the course of the training, everyone’s main focus was on taking care of patients.
"We know they're far away from home, but we want to get them healthy; get them better so they can get back and be with their families," Lee stated.