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Home : News : News
NEWS | June 28, 2013

Exercise puts emergency medicine skills to the test

By John Franklin Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

Fifteen physicians from the senior residency program at San Antonio Military Medical Center recently completed one of the most intense combat emergency medicine courses in the country.

The physicians spent six days learning post-graduate skills in the demanding arena of combat casualty care. The exercise gave graduating emergency medicine residents an opportunity to experience the challenges of practicing medicine on or near a battlefield.

This specialized training program was intended to give the new doctors some experience with battlefield medicine, explained Maj. (Dr.) Guyon Hill, director of operational medicine, Brooke Army Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine.

"Although the students are all active duty Army and Air Force emergency physicians about to graduate and go to their first assignment or deployments, they don't get exposed to (combat casualty care) elsewhere in their residency," he said.

Hill and Maj. Paul Allen, a physician assistant with the Department of Emergency Medicine, spent nine months planning and coordinating this realistic training exercise.

They describe the training as "one of the most ambitious" programs in the Department of Defense. The emergency medicine exercise they designed saw medical personnel training with operational units and experiencing the full mission profile - from receipt of a tasking order, through planning, and into the field for execution.

Hill said the six-day exercise seeks to hone the military medical skills of the physicians. Classroom time covered a wide variety of subjects that includes professional development presentations, equipment, planning for mass casualties, a cadaver lab, evacuation of casualties and understanding the principles of the tactical combat casualty care process.

The last three days focused on a field training exercise at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, where the physicians were exposed to field operations and simulated casualties.

"We really wanted them to see what the medic on the ground goes through," Hill said.
The field training exercise helped physicians appreciate the difficulty of providing aid for major wounds in very close proximity to the battle ground or while under fire.

The Texas National Guard's Company C, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces (Airborne) unit located at JBSA-Camp Bullis provided support to the training.

Special Forces personnel and emergency medicine faculty from SAMMC developed a series of exercise scenarios.

The physicians were given weapons familiarization training and during the scenarios they were incorporated into the Special Forces teams so they could observe and experience combat scenarios.

Special Forces and BAMC volunteers provided opposition forces and administrative staff to help carry out the complex series of scenarios involving simulated combat during daylight and night operations and in a variety of situations.

In case anyone became too casual about the exercise scenarios, both sides fired special "sim rounds," which are like paintballs on steroids coming out the barrel of an M-4 and with no paint splat.

A UH-60 helicopter and crews from the Texas National Guard's 149th Aviation Battalion provided an opportunity for the doctors to experience what was involved in moving a patient by a medical evacuation helicopter.

The doctors were hoisted up into a helicopter and saw the challenges medics face while providing care to the wounded in a moving helicopter or other vehicle.

The emergency medicine exercise gave military doctors a sample of the elements of casualty care they might never see if their experience and training was limited to an in-hospital situation. It broadens their experience level and gives them skills that enhance their ability to provide top level medical care to military personnel, Hill said.

This annual EMX program is seeking to provide SAMMC emergency medicine physicians with the best training possible in dealing with combat casualties.

The feedback from participating physicians was very positive, Hill said. "This was without a doubt the best experience of my residency," one physician said.

"Best military training I've had."