FORT IRWIN, Calif. – The medics knew they were going to be busy when the ground shook and the earsplitting blasts of incoming mortars struck Forward Operating Base Denver. The concussions signaled an attack that would leave scores of mock wounded scattered about the FOB. The attack was launched at the beginning of dinner meal service during the FOB’s most populated time of the day.
Medics and combat lifesaver qualified soldiers took charge of the scene during a mass casualty training exercise, treating and collecting the wounded for transport to C Company, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division’s, aid station. The wounded soldiers arrived at the hospital in droves. Against the chaos of the scene, they were organized into categories according to the severity of their wounds and treated for their injuries.
The brigade’s aid station can provide echelon two treatment for wounds up to minor surgery on-site. The unit provides care to stabilize severely injured patients until a medical evacuation can arrive and transport the wounded for further treatment, said Staff Sgt. Ramon A. Reyes, treatment non-commissioned officer in charge, C Company, 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Bde, 2nd ID.
The combat trainers at the NTC designed the scenario to overwhelm the hospital and test the unit’s reaction to the stress.
“We conduct a lot of rehearsals to plan and develop a mass casualty plan in case of an event like this,” said 1st Sgt. Douglas Wallace, C Company, 2nd BSB, 2nd Bde, 2nd ID.
“The whole purpose of this is that the CTs are going to push us to the limits,” said Maj. John M. Csokmay, a physician attached to C Company, “They are going to stress our resources and our staff to see how we respond.”
The patients flowed into the hospital carried by soldiers, delivered in four litter ambulances and in the back of cargo trucks. Medics and CLS qualified soldiers arrived from across the FOB to assist in any way they could.
“It definitely is organized chaos,” said Csokmay, “While it looks like everyone is running in different directions, any given individual knows what their job is from carrying litters, providing first aid, triaging patients to getting evacuations set up.”
“Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong,” said Pfc. Diana Deaiman, a medic with C Company, 2nd BSB, 2nd Bde, 2nd ID, originally from Austin, Texas. “I knew what I needed to do.”
The training scenario took on a surreal appearance as the mock wounded arrived through the smoke, the dust and the cover of darkness. Simulated patients screaming in agony presented very realistic conditions.
“The stress that they’re pushing at the NTC, actually getting role-players with very real looking trauma, will help the medics downrange,” said Spc. Elijah Allman, medic with C Company, 2nd BSB, 2nd Bde, 2nd ID, “They will think to themselves, ‘I’ve seen something like this before that’s very lifelike’ and they won’t freeze up, then they will be able to help.”
“For a medical company this is what we are preparing for, the ultimate mass casualty event,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Sherrod, Newark, N.J., treatment platoon sergeant for C Company, 2nd BSB, 2nd Bde, 2nd ID, “We hope it never happens; we know it potentially will happen, and we just have to prepare for it.”
After the exercise was completed, the injured role-players left the tents to the doctors and medics. The unit’s mass casualty plan had worked. At the end of the night C Company finished treating about 30 simulated casualties and two minor real-world injuries without missing a beat.