News: Reserve forces train Canadian medics in Southbound Trooper
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell
FORT PICKETT, Va. — Michelle M. Imlay knows the inside of a hospital. Enrolled in nurse practitioner school, she can talk for hours about different procedures to save lives. But, as a U.S. Army Reserve first lieutenant, she is mostly concerned about saving soldiers lives outside of a hospital on the battlefield.
During a recent exercise called Southbound Trooper, Imlay used her life-saving knowledge to help train U.S. and Canadian Army medics at Fort Pickett, Va., Feb. 18-24.
The medical exercise was a small portion of the simulated combat environment, but had far-reaching effects for the troops.
“There are a couple of young medics here that were nervous in the beginning and now they’re stepping up. They’re starting IVs and cutting off clothes and really getting in there,” said Imlay, assigned to the 7236th Medical Support Unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.
At the beginning of the exercise, some of the troops were a little timid when simulated casualties started appearing in the medical tents, said Imlay, from Charleston, W. Va.
“There was a very shy young man and with a little nudging he is now able to look over a trauma patient and give the report to the flight nurse,” said Imlay. “He couldn’t have done that before.”
These little victories may not seem like a lot during training, but it could mean a life on the battlefield.
“That’s what it’s all about. Teaching each other and growing and developing so we can provide world-class care to our wounded,” said Imlay.
Canadian army medic Pvt. Alexander P. Peck from Fredericton, New Brunswick, assigned to Canadian Forces Health Services Atlantic, couldn’t agree more.
“This is the first time I’ve interacted with the U.S. military,” said Peck. “The resources and the quality of personnel that I’ve worked with are phenomenal. I love working down here because they are always willing to participate and show us the ropes, then we show them some stuff too.”
Peck mentioned that one example is the type of vehicles used to transport wounded troops. He taught American troops how to load and unload a stretcher from a Canadian ambulance and they taught him how to do it on a Black Hawk Helicopter.
“Working with different services and countries has been surprisingly smooth,” said U.S. Air National Guard Maj. Peter J. Buonocore assigned to 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. “Normally when you have mixed services and mixed nations there’s always a learning curve, a little disconnect. If there was, it wasn’t obvious at all; it’s been a smooth transition.”
Buonocore, a medical service corps officer from Hagerstown, Md., has deployed twice and understands how hectic combat can get.
“The good thing about this exercise is they squeeze a whole lot of action into a short amount of time and it’s either sink or swim,” Buonocore said. “So far, everybody’s been swimming.”
He also said that there’s a different element that Reserve and Guard troops bring into the military. He said it’s something one can’t find in the civilian world.
“You don’t get to play with helicopters and airplanes and folks from Canada and different parts of the world and share different cultural experiences,” explained Buonocore. “Being in the military is different than a civilian job. Unless you’ve been in the military it’s hard to explain the camaraderie. I always go back to work with a smile on my face, and they kind of know what that means.”
Imlay said she noticed the camaraderie too and is familiar with working with NATO troops.
Recently, Imlay was deployed to Landstuhl, Germany, where she worked with coalition forces to save troops evacuated from combat zones.
There she was recognized as the Army Reserve Nurse Corps Award of Excellence for 2010. She said the award humbled her because she was just doing her job by helping her fellow soldiers.
“The Army always teaches selfless service from the heart, right?” said Imlay. “So one of the greatest things in the world is to take care of soldiers. And I think that’s an honor.”