STARKE, Fla., —Army Reserve soldiers reached out to their National Guard brothers to execute a Cumulative Training Exercise on July 20 on Camp Blanding that could save lives.
The Florida Army National Guard’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment of Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Fla. provided a HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter in order to teach the more than 50 Soldiers of the 320th Military Police Company of St. Petersburg, Fla., the ins and outs of medical evacuations.
For a few of the Soldiers like Pfc. Jonathan Reveron, they played a “casualty” and witnessed the evacuation from start to finish.
“I basically got to watch everybody do their job and see how everything coordinates from the aid and litter team to the team that is in the helicopter and how in tune everybody has to be,” said Reveron, a grocery store chain warehouse worker who has been a Military Policeman for 15 months.
The Medevac Operation was the finale of a week-long pre-mobilization training that saw the soldiers or the “Bulldogs” who are slated to deploy to Southwest Asia undergo several training events, including a Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer, Countering Improvised Explosive Devices training, a tactical road march, tactical convoy mission training and Warrior Task and Drills.
The Medevac Operation gave the soldiers an opportunity to not only be a “casualty” but also call in a 9-line Medevac report and be on four-man litter teams.
Company C was the last Medevac unit to leave Iraq during Operation New Dawn (Dec. 18, 2012).
“It is always a pleasure training with units that are deploying overseas,” said 1st Sgt. Wilfredo Figueroa, flight paramedic for the company and instructor for the day.
Company commander Capt. Douglas A. Worstell said this training was very seamless because “of the past 10 years of deployments and having to work with the National Guard while mobilized.
“Our National Guard brothers welcome any combined training with the Reserve because it also hones their skills and builds a lasting relationship especially because we are both collated in the same state,” said Worstell.
Figueroa was impressed with how these soldiers took the exercise serious.
“They safely carried patients to and from the aircraft and observed all of the safety requirements that were discussed during the administrative brief,” he noted.
PFC Guillermo Arguelles said he liked the exercise because he learned as a litter bearer how to place the litter correctly into the helicopter’s metal pans in order to lock it into place.
“I didn’t realize how powerful the wind was when you get off,” added Arguelles, who has been a military policeman for 15 months and a server as a civilian.
Another server and a signal support specialist Spc. Leah Vice of Lehigh Acres, Fla., was able to call in two 9-Line reports for the first time.
She admitted that her adrenaline was flowing.
“I’m more of a hands on person so now I know how it it supposed to be played out if I do need to call and what to expect,” said Vice, who has been in the Reserve for three years.
Regarding expectations, Figueroa’s brief that started the several-hour exercise told the soldiers and 45 more of their fellow soldiers who were enrolled in a three-day Combat Lifesaver Course what to expect after real-world experiences.
He told the attendees, who included combat medics from the Army Reserve 812th Military Police Company of Orangeburg, N.Y., that in most evacuations a combat medic does not call in the 9-line Medevac so everyone should know how to do this.
He also noted that as a flight paramedic, things he would like to know include if a patient is stable or unstable, if special equipment like a hoist will be needed, and how is the landing zone going to be marked specifically. For example, what color is the smoke?
Figueroa also told the soldiers that multiple tourniquets work.
“Do whatever you can do to stop the bleeding,” he said.
The soldiers also were told to ensure that the casualties are wearing ear and eye protection and they are carrying no weapons or ammunition.
Figueroa also informed the soldiers that the casualties with the most life-threatening injuries are treated first. This includes the enemy.
“We’re Americans, we treat everybody,” he stated.
Figueroa concluded his brief by having four soldiers practice carrying a litter with a “casualty.” He offered several pointers, including not to run, lift as a team counting off one, two, three with the lift being on three, and ensuring that when walking away from the helicopter that each soldier wraps their arms around each other’s shoulders as they walk back.
Worstell told the soldiers the reason for this after the exercise.
Bottom line, because of debris being kicked up from a helicopter’s rotor wash, soldiers would not be able to see each other, said Worstell.
He emphasized to the soldiers to understand the limitations of a medevac, especially downrange. He pointed out that this landing zone was cleared out and in a cantonment area.
Figueroa commented that all the procedures the soldiers learned, including litter team drills, the packaging of a patient and what to expect when a helicopter is landing, makes a medevac more efficient.
“The goal is to save a life,” he said.