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Training to save a life: North Carolina medics hold exercise at Fort Bragg

Commanding Unit


North Carolina National Guard
Raleigh, NC, US

Training to Save a Life: North Carolina medics hold exercise at Fort Bragg


Story by Sgt. Leticia Samuels

Training to save a life: North Carolina medics hold exercise at Fort Bragg FORT BRAGG, N.C. - “ALL CLEAR!” is a phrase normally used to signal that danger has passed, but at Forward Operating Base Latham, that is the signal for high-speed U.S. Army medics to resume their controlled chaos after a simulated mortar attack during a massive casualty training exercise July 30 at Fort Bragg.

Medics from the 163rd Area Support Medical Company ran through realistic combat scenarios that would arise in a combat situation, and were evaluated by a training assistance element to validate the unit’s performance.

The event was part of a two-week annual training event for the 163rd ASMC, which is part of the North Carolina National Guard and based out of East Flat Rock.

National Guard units are evaluated by a higher echelon to ensure their Soldiers can successfully accomplish assigned missions and scenarios under pressure while sustaining minimal damage to personnel and equipment.

Combat medics are required to deal with enormous amounts of pressure during real life situations and have to find ways to remain calm, said Staff Sgt. Andrew Miner, the 163rd ASMC’s top noncommissioned officer.

“I keep a really close personal relationship with my each of my Soldiers so it’s a lot easier to work them, and you know who you’re working with,” Miner said.

During each scenario, role-playing victims underwent a movie-like transformation using moulage or makeup kits to paint on injuries for the medical teams to assess and treat. The “injured” Soldiers then crawled or walked in a daze across the training area in search of treatment.

While these Soldiers wandered across the FOB, the company’s leadership received intelligence updates from its higher headquarters in this case, the NCNG’s 60th Troop Command, that there may be causalities needing assistance in a nearby city. As this information comes in, the company’s aide station starts to hum, as senior medics throw out orders to receive patients.

Miner emphasized communication between his squads and NCOs.
“Just so everyone stays informed and knows what’s going on,” he said.

As the company’s tactical operations center staff receives medical evacuation requests, containing vital information from the Soldiers in need, the medics gather equipment they’ll need to provide on-site care. Ensuring the passing of information up and down the chain of command is one of the most critical parts of the evaluation.

“Communication, communication, it can only make us better,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Childers, 60th Troop Command’s senior operations NCO.

While the aide station is preparing and manning the correct stations, the evacuation platoon has a very important role providing Soldiers in need of medical assistance transportation to the nearby aide station. Front-line ambulances are dispatched from the base, equipped with electrocardiogram, or EKG machines; blood pressure monitors; splints and everything else that a modern ambulance carries to save a life.

“The most difficult part is the ride, having to save someone’s life while you’re moving around in the back of the vehicle,” said Sgt. Kerri Crossley, a combat medic with the 163rd ASMC.

Transportation medics have equipment to stabilize the casualty before reaching the aide station. While en route, the Soldier serving as the ambulance’s traffic controller radios the TOC with the number of casualties, their injuries and the vehicle’s estimated time arrival.

This critical information is passed to the immediate aide station which in turn helps senior medics receive their patients in an orderly fashion categorized by the severity of their injuries.

Like in a civilian hospital, there is a triage area, outside the aide station where the transportation medics drop off patients. This is also where patients’ wounds are re-analyzed and categorized by severity.

The company’s emergency response center, where patients receive treatment, stands next to a delay station which receives patients with less severe injuries who can wait to be seen. This station is also monitored by a senior medic and medical provider.

The trauma bay within the response center includes three trauma beds, each manned by three medics in charge of monitoring vitals, administering intravenous fluids, and re-assessing injuries. Providers, who are normally doctors on the civilian side, render care and oversee the disposition of their patients.

“We don’t just think about the here and now, were thinking about the Soldiers’ future,” said Staff Sgt. Eugene Friedmann, the 163rd ASMC’s treatment platoon sergeant.

After patients are stabilized and follow-on treatment needs are established, the company’s leaders, providers, and senior medics determine how the patient will be transported to a the appropriate hospital. Patients can be transported via helicopter or ambulance depending on is the patient’s condition.

During the day’s exercise, the 163rd ASMC Soldiers also received training on how to correctly approach, load and unload patients onto a UH-60 Black Hawk during a simulated casualty evacuation by the crew chiefs and pilots of the C Company, 131st Assault Helicopter Battalion – part of the NCNG’s 449th Theater Aviation Brigade. Patients with more severe injuries are normally transported this way to ensure they reach hospital treatment facility for surgery and advanced care quickly.

Soldiers with the 163rd ASMC also showed their versatility during this summer’s two-week annual training period by providing medical support to Maryland National Guard Soldiers, who were conducting training at an adjacent training site on Fort Bragg.

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