Above: Staff Sgt. Nate Carey, a flight paramedic with the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, instructs reservists on how to load a litter for airborne medevac during Operation Command Force, the annual Naval Reserve training exercise, at Fort Drum. Right: The culminating event included tactical field care and medical evacuation procedures with reservists traversing an obstacle course with trash. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
US Navy reservists practice tactical field care, medical skills during annual on-the-job training
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, NY (July 26, 2022) – A team of U.S. Navy Reserve Corps members duck deep into the water while keeping control of a heavily laden litter overhead. After trudging through the trench, they negotiated how to move the patient, themselves, and their weapons up a seven-foot wall. All the while, senior leaders and executives encouraged them to deliberately move on to the next goal.
They endured one obstacle after another to get their patients to safety, only to become victims themselves in the end.
Welcome to Operation Commanding Force.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park,” said Navy Reserve Hospital Corps member Andrew Leach. “But it was probably one of the hardest things, physically, I’ve had to do in a while. You had to be fully engaged, tactically, all the time, and it was taxing.
The two-week Naval Reserve training exercise at Fort Drum concluded July 21 with approximately 60 corpsmen practicing tactical field care and medical evacuation procedures outside the training center of medical simulation Bridgewater-Vaccaro (MSTC).
Rear Admiral Eric L. Peterson, deputy commander of Naval Medical Forces Atlantic, observed the reservists as they moved through the trauma corridors. He said that for many of the young enlistees, this was their first annual training event.
“It was a great first experience for them to teach them who we are as a service and a fighter, and how we support the fighter and provide that care to preserve fighting strength in the event of injury,” Peterson said. “I cannot say enough about the great job they have done and the support of management and staff here at Fort Drum to make this training possible.”
The day began with an introduction to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Air Medevac procedures, as Master Sgt. Nate Carey rappels from a helicopter to salute the reservists. Carey, a paramedic, showed the group how to bring a litter to the plane and then safely secure the patient and themselves inside.
This would become useful information later, as they formed into quick reaction forces to extract casualties from the battlefield for ground and air evacuations.
In addition to support from the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th CAB and MSTC cadre, medics from the 1st Brigade Combat Team and 2nd Brigade Combat Team established tents on the ground to treat the injured. Members of the Navy Hospital Corps learned Role 1 operations – the level of care that includes triage, treatment and stabilization, as well as personal care and buddy care – at the aid station. At the role 2 position, surgical teams are able to provide advanced medical support with X-ray and laboratory capabilities.
Leach said after spending a few days in the classroom, this type of training was pretty intense.
“It has become much more convenient, especially today,” he said. “It was the first time for many of us to be in a Black Hawk. The training was great and it was interesting to see how army medicine is actually very similar to what we do, in terms of assessments and how we treat our patients and triage.
Naval Reserve Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Syed Hoque said it was brutal going through the litter obstacle course, but afterwards he thought it was a fun experience.
“It was serious training, but I enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t really know how to explain what it feels like if you’ve never been through it. They kind of threw the whole book away at us. It’s going to take me a while to absorb everything we did, because it wasn’t just a simple workout. It was the most realistic workout I’ve ever had.
Before entering the obstacle course, Navy Reserve Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Guadalupe Avila gathered his team for a group photo. Afterwards, when they came out tired and soaked, she wished they had taken an “after” picture as well.
“At first you’re fired up and fired up, because you think you’re ready for this,” she said. “But after a few minutes of wearing the litter box, it really gets you down. I think the dummy weighs 135 pounds, and it cost me dearly.
Marine Reserve Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Dunlap, of Batavia, said most reservists work on ships or in naval hospitals, and they serve in many different capacities. Only those who work in field hospitals for the Marine Corps have the opportunity to experience something similar to this training exercise.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ve been there for five years, and it was the first time I qualified on a rifle.”
Dunlap said he worked with Army personnel while deployed, but having a joint training exercise was a unique opportunity.
“Ideally, when we’re all downline, we’ll be working together, so it’s important to have a better idea of what it will look like,” he said.
Hoque was the only reservist in New Jersey, so he said it was a good experience to meet other members of the Hospital Corps from all parts of the country.
“My teammates and all the friends I made along the way definitely made this the most fun for me,” he said.
The reservists also practiced drowning-proof training in the swimming pool at Magrath Sports Complex and marksmanship training in an indoor shooting range. Marine Reserve Corps member 3rd Class Karina Ruiz said while convoy operations aren’t in their job description, she enjoyed experiencing it virtually inside a simulator. training.
“I got to be a pilot in the Humvee simulator, and it was really tough,” she said. “I’ve never been on a convoy in real life – we’re never on land at all – so it was a good experience.”
Previously, they conducted water rescue operations with members of the US Coast Guard and New York Naval Militia on the St. Lawrence River.
“This training is all about preparation, and it’s been outstanding,” Peterson said. “The interoperability they experience in this training environment is key to any future combat. The fact that we are working and training with Army assets, in addition to the Coast Guard, has been extremely useful.
Since 2012, Naval Reserve personnel from across the United States have conducted joint medical readiness training here through Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) in Virginia. Ken Walters, CSTM instructor/operator and 20-year Navy veteran, has participated in the annual training exercise almost since its inception.
He said it is difficult for reservists to complete all the training and certifications required of them during exercise weekends, and Operation Commanding Force gives them the opportunity to accomplish that and more. .
“For them, going into the woods, holding rubber guns and doing tactical moves is all new,” he said. “So they get their two-week requirements, but also exposure to training that they may never get again unless they come back here.”
Walters has walked the litter obstacle course countless times during his career at Fort Drum, barking at soldiers to maintain situational awareness, move quickly and, above all, not leave the patient behind. die. Just because he was putting hospital corps members through the wringer, the former Navy chief didn’t mince words or take their breath away. He said it’s because training is so important.
“It’s too late in my opinion,” he said. “A lot of them are real-world vendors and they’re trained in their civilian jobs. But when it comes to this type of field work, no exposure, no training. But now they work alongside Army medics and learn how they operate in the field.