JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CAMP BULLIS, Texas –
During the first week of December 2023, the Air Force, Army and Marines collaborated in Operation AGILE Medic at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, providing medics with real-world experience in austere environments transporting patients and implementing hands-on MEDIC-X training.
Throughout the joint exercise, medics were faced with unexpected scenarios, where they had to communicate between the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team to Air Evacuation and, or, Critical Care Air Transport team, and vice versa.
“Communicating with everyone you interact with is critical,” stated Capt. Julie Thompson, 559th Trainee Health Squadron, registered nurse.
One of the positions Thompson held in the exercise was a Launch and Recovery Nurse. She explained they are responsible for collecting patients from EMEDS or the flight line, gathering critical patient information during transfer and communicating this to the next medical crew.
“We need to know the patient's condition: if they're bleeding and whether it's controlled, their current medications, stability, and whether they're breathing,” Thompson said. “This information is crucial for us to provide the necessary medical care during the transfer to or from EMEDS and ensures we have a clear understanding of the patient's status before moving them.”
Effective communication among teams is pivotal for ensuring proper patient care. Additionally, the complexity of managing limited resources requires quick thinking, especially in scenarios involving patient transportation and medical supply planning.
Service members held diverse roles with opportunities to realize practical communication, encountering obstacles like ascertaining critical patient information over the noise of helicopter blades or other aircraft and a lack of proper communication tools in the field.
“This exercise interfaced with, active duty and reserve Air Force, Air National Guard on the fixed-wing C-130s and Marines directing aircraft landing,” said Senior Airman Genevieve Renshaw, 433rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic. “We also had Army Reserve coming in on Black Hawk helicopters. To approach those aircraft, we use hand signals and gestures to connect with each other and then quickly learn what their preferred method of communication is. As we continue to interface with those same branches and aircraft or sometimes even the same crew, we grow more efficient.”
During the exercise, Renshaw was a Bulldog, one of the leaders in the medical crew. She guided and directed her crew to and from ERPSS. They also consider how many vehicles and what manpower to take, and how to get everybody to the aircraft and back.
Training with numerous scenarios and patient transports throughout the exercise provided medics ample opportunities to improve both their communication and medical skills. In addition to medical leaders who directed medical teams, medics helped drive to and from locations and assisted in carrying litters of patients.
Tech Sgt. John Coursey, 59th Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Squadron Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Pharmacy noncommissioned officer in charge, and a main Humvee driver for ERPSS in the exercise, shared his communication experience.
“When we first got here the communication was a struggle,” Coursey said. “We received training from the cadres and we also had some people that worked on an ERPPS team back at Lackland, so they helped us get up to speed. Halfway through the exercise our communication got a lot better and we improved as the exercise went on.”
The joint training exercise provided invaluable experience in a deployed environment, reinforcing the importance of efficient communication in every step of patient preparation, transfer, and treatment. Medics stand ready to deploy anytime, anywhere, ensuring fast and effective care for patients.