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    Maine Medevac Company trains as they fight

    Maine Medevac Company Trains as they fight

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Angela Parady | Sgt. Levi Swan, a crew chief with Company G, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Angela Parady 

    121st Public Affairs Detachment

    Soldiers from Company G, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment had the unique opportunity to provide medical evacuation support for more than 5,000 service members training together on over 147,000 acres of land outside of Camp Grayling, Michigan.

    Northern Strike is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise that brought together Army, Air Force, Marine and Special Forces service members from approximately 20 states and three coalition countries during the first few weeks of August 2017.

    Maj. Nathan Arnold, the officer in charge for the 126th this mission, said that training such as this is invaluable to his team, providing experience mobilizing, real-time patient care and battle rhythms for a unique unit.

    “This is a small mobilization,” he said. They had to make a plan to get their forward support medical platoon, including the three helicopters, from Bangor, Maine to Grayling, Michigan. When they arrived in Michigan they set themselves up to respond to calls within 24 hours of arriving.

    “We needed to set up our operations, get an idea of the battlefield we were working on,” he continued. “We needed to go through all of our maps and identify hospitals, treatment centers and landing zones. These are all the same things we need to do if we were to deploy.”

    Lt. Col. Raymond Stemitz, the assistant deputy director of training for the Michigan National Guard said that this year was the first year that the exercise incorporated the military medevac asset into their operation.

    According to Stemitz, the exercise has expanded over the years and the needs of the exercise exceed the capabilities of the local civilian community.

    “We went through multiple rehearsals and table top exercises,” he said. “We brought in the local community resources and all the medical providers in the northern Michigan area and we talked about this. Bringing in our medevac assets was the best option. We have all of the right equipment, we have all the trained people.”

    Both Stemitz and Arnold agreed that medevac support for Northern Strike has expedited care to the patients who need it and helps the Soldiers take pride in a job they signed up to do. Now they see themselves helping their fellow service members.

    Sgt. 1st Class Tom Thibodeau, the unit movement coordinator and noncommissioned officer in charge of the unit for this exercise said that Northern Strike provided valuable and tangible experience while also developing comradery and teamwork.

    “When we are deployed, it is just like this,” he said. “That always surprises even the most experienced of us. You spend a lot of time sitting and waiting and learning to manage that waiting time, break the boredom, because just when you think you are off the hook, a call comes in. When that call comes in it is zero to a hundred, all hands on and you have to be able to make that adjustment like that.”

    Thibodeau said the team they had for this mission did an outstanding job.

    “We really scrubbed the volunteer list. We wanted a good mix of experienced people, but also wanted to be able to bring in a lot of inexperienced people to get them trained up, so we paid close attention to who we brought with us.”

    Many of the crew chiefs and newer flight medics were able to experience their first real life medevac mission.

    Sgt. Stefan Emery, a flight medic for the 126th responded to a medevac call for a patient with multiple finger amputations. Unlike a simulated experience, this patient was truly having one of the worst days of his life.

    “As soon as we got the call, all I thought about was what I could do for the patient based on the information I had been given,” said Emery. “I tried to evaluate all the treatments the individual may or may not need and how to most effectively provide the best care.”

    Emery’s role included informing the patient of the plan to get him to a hospital and continue to assess and reassess the situation at hand.

    Responding to this call not only shaved precious time off getting the patient to the hospital where his fingers could be reattached by a surgeon, but it also provided invaluable experience to Emery and other members on board the helicopter.

    “Being able to go run a true medevac call has been essential in making me feel more comfortable working in the helicopter, as well as with other crew members as a whole,” he said. “I hope with more calls in the future I will continue to fine tune my treatments to provide faster and more efficient care.”

    Sgt. Levi Swan echoed the sentiment. For the crew chief, his role is centered on making sure everything in the back of the helicopter is under control, handle any airlifts and are often making sure that the aircraft is running properly.

    “Responding to a call here was a massive difference,” said Swan.
    “Everything at home is staged, so you get the call and everything is controlled, orderly. You get the 9-line and all the information is there and it’s clear and you have perfect instruction. Out here we had to work through different controlling agencies. We had limited patient information. We didn’t really know what we were working with until we got out to the pick-up location, but that is when all the training we have had kicks in. We have trained for this so many times, that regardless of the situation, we were able to adapt and overcome and get that patient where he needed to be.”

    Arnold said that missing or incomplete information prior to a pick-up was part of the value this exercise provided the less experienced members of his team.

    “A person that has just witnessed a catastrophic incident and is trying to call in a 9-line, perhaps from memory, it’s challenging. To see that in a combat scenario like this, where people are really getting hurt, people’s adrenaline is higher and you don’t get the whole picture, or you get a different picture or sometimes a much worse picture than it really is because people aren’t used to seeing blood all over the place or someone pass out other than in training.”

    Reacting to real life emergencies and managing those adrenaline spikes from a resting phase to an action phase can be mentally and physically exhausting. That is one thing that leaders need to keep in mind when they are preparing for these missions. Arnold says to keep things running smoothly it is all about the fatigue management.

    “How do I sustain a crew that is alert, awake and ready to go on a 2 week cycle,” he said. “How do you get people to relax? You get to know your Soldiers. Whatever it takes, managing that medevac lifestyle where you have to be ready all the time, but actively resting all the time and that is a skill.”

    It is a lifestyle that takes getting used to, whether at home or in theatre. Both Arnold and Thibodeau compared the day-to-day experiences of Northern Strike to what a medevac unit may face in Kuwait or Iraq.

    “You go from zero to 100, you just do it,” said Arnold. “There are no mortars here, no one shooting at you, but the 9-line comes in at random times throughout the night. You are either awake or you aren’t and you have to be able to put your game face on, receive the mission, analyze the mission quickly, figure out where you are going, figure out what you need for equipment and or narcotics and go.”

    That alertness has to be carefully balanced, because safety needs to remain a top priority.

    “You have to be off the ground in 15 minutes,” said Thibodeau. “And you need to do it all safely. If you turn their emergency into your emergency and you get hurt, you aren’t gaining anything. That is hard, you have tell these guys slow down, don’t run. You can walk fast, but don’t run. If you fall and break your ankle trying to get to the helo because you are excited, we just failed the mission. You aren’t helping anyone.”



    Date Taken: 08.08.2017
    Date Posted: 10.24.2017 15:23
    Story ID: 252833
    Location: GRAYLING, MI, US 
    Hometown: BANGOR, ME, US

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