EAST LYME, Conn. - Annual Training in 2017 took Connecticut Soldiers to various states across the U.S., but the Soldiers and Medics of the 141st Medical Company (Ground Ambulance) didn’t need to travel far to get the valuable, realistic training that they were looking for.
More than 50 Soldiers assigned to the 141st Medical Company and other companies that provided support participated in a three-day Field Training Exercise, culminating in a Mass Casualty Exercise at Camp Niantic, Connecticut and Stones Ranch Military Reservation, East Lyme, Connecticut June 24-26.
“The benefit of a home station AT is flexibility,” said Capt. Michael Vaughan, Company Commander of the 141st. “We can focus solely on providing real world scenarios so our medics can provide realistic medical care to realistic Soldier injuries.”
During the exercise, Connecticut Guardsmen serving as combat medics operated in ambulance teams of three and were dispatched to locations at Camp Niantic and SRMR in order to treat typical injuries that Soldiers may acquire in a training environment.
“As a Ground Ambulance Company, we treat from the point of injury on scene, then transport medical casualties to a higher level of care,” said Sgt. Donnell Niles, combat medic assigned to the 141st. “We are being faced with medical and trauma patients with typical training injuries. We have seen everything from bee stings to impalements, to Soldiers dealing with PTSD and psychosis, forcing us to implement behavior control as well.”
As ambulance teams (consisting of a driver, squad leader and treating medic) performed care, they were guided and evaluated by Senior Noncommissioned Officers at each scene. The NCO’s adjusted each scenario based on the abilities and performance of the treating team.
“The evaluators are there to make it more difficult for Soldiers who have mastered certain tasks in order for them to utilize more of their Soldier and medical skills,” said Vaughan.
The medical skills were tested and validated during week one of annual training at Camp Niantic. Each year, U.S. Army medics are validated on what is known as a “Table VIII,” eight critical tasks that demonstrate individual competence and medical education of Soldiers with the military occupational specialty of a combat medic.
The three-day FTX culminated with an unexpected mass casualty exercise. All ambulance teams were dispatched to a central training area of SRMR where they were faced with patients simulating injuries resulting from the in-air evacuation of a burning CH-47 Chinook Helicopter.
“We had no idea this was coming,” said Spc. Antoinette Jackson, also assigned to the 141st. “You think you can relax, and then you have to jump back into the medic mode to ensure patient safety and focus on teamwork to provide care to each patient.”
About 30 medics took to the scene to triage, treat and transport nearly 40 simulated injuries acted out by support elements of the 141st Medical Company.
“It’s hard to keep training fresh,” said Niles, who participated in his fifth annual training with the 141st, and his seventh with the Connecticut National Guard overall. “Adding the element of surprise is important, it adds additional communication and teamwork challenges and forces you to adapt.”
“You never know what can happen in the field, and exercises like this one prepare you for when someone’s life is really in your hands,” said Jackson. “This is as real as it will get with training.”
Following the FTX and MASCAL, the 141st Medical Company finished annual training with an after action review and follow-up unit requirements to identify how to better training and their unit’s skills.
“You can’t put a price on the value this type of training provides our entire unit,” said Capt. Vaughan. “It really tests the technical skills of our medics in a high-pressure environment, and I couldn’t be prouder of how hard everyone has worked.”