Medical Soldiers Sharpen Skills With Coalition Partners in Iraq

January 25, 2018

Flames burned in the midmorning here Jan. 18 as coalition forces went on alert after a simulated gas bottle explosion during a mass casualty training exercise.

Soldiers assigned to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade and coalition soldiers from New Zealand, Singapore and Australia worked together to simulate a real-world training scenario. The exercise provided a hands-on experience in a combat situation if a flood of wounded patients came to the Camp Taji Role One Enhanced Medical Facility.

“These exercises are made to stress the system with a larger number of patients than you would normally see, so you can iron out all the kinks when it’s practiced,” said Army Capt. Brian Morey, an aeromedical physician assistant assigned to the 1st Battalion, 126 Aviation Regiment, 449th CAB.

Simulated Explosion

The exercise began with a simulated explosion in a work location that injured numerous soldiers. Medical personnel aided wounded soldiers as they waited for the medical evacuation team to transport the wounded to the nearest medical facility.

“The point-of-injury care will occur wherever the injury happens,” Morey said. “The event happens at an unknown, distant site. You have your buddy aid, your combat lifesaver [skills], or if there are medics, they respond. That is your immediate lifesaving measure.” The medical facility is alerted, and wounded personnel are transported by a medical evacuation team to the nearest medical facility, where they are met by a medical liaison, he added.

As the mock patients are being received, Morey said, a triage medical officer examines them for different levels of medical treatment.

The Australian army oversees the facility and allows integration of the various forces, strengthening interoperability and a smooth administration of effective medical procedures despite the different backgrounds, Morey explained.

‘We Are All Working Together’

“When it comes to a mass casualty [event], we are all working together, said Australian army Maj. Greg Button, the senior medical officer at the Taji Role One Medical Facility.

Camp Taji is one of five Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve building-partner-capacity locations dedicated to training partner forces and enhancing their effectiveness on the battlefield. Planning and cross-training are critical to ensuring they can support any medical situations that can arise, he added.

Morey said the Australian army doesn’t have physician assistants, so the 449th CAB can help.

“We wanted to be included, because it is very feasible that if there was a mass casualty we have providers and medics that are available to help,” Morey said. “We preplanned this with them well in advance, because they are not only taking care of their own soldiers, but pretty much everybody here on base. In the weeks leading up to this, we had them come down and see our equipment and aid stations and talked about our capabilities.”

The 449th CAB provides aviation combined strategic partnership training with regional military partners to conduct multinational training events. Morey said medical personnel assigned to the 449th CAB trained 27 coalition forces soldiers on patient loading operations on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which also tied into the training.

Helicopter Familiarization

“We did a walk-through of the danger areas of the aircraft, how to approach it and how the patients are loaded,” Morey said. “We showed them the inside and the capabilities of how to sustain a patient inside the aircraft. This was a culminating event that we added to the mass casualty exercise so they can actually load a patient on an aircraft at a real location and test their whole system.”

This training is part of the overall Operation Inherent Resolve building-partner-capacity mission which focuses on training and improving the capability of partnered forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“This [exercise] gives the medics a chance to work with multinational forces,” Morey said. “It really does a lot for building those experiences.”