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NEWS | May 6, 2014

35th Medical Group Revamps for Realism

By Senior Airman Derek VanHorn 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

There's an anxious feeling in the air as medics surround a landing aircraft packed full of injured Airmen. For each patient, the minutes drag on like hours, and each breath is a fight for survival.

The scene is set by war, and the difference between life and death lies directly in the hands of the members of the 35th Medical Group.

This is your average day during an Operational Readiness Exercise here May 5-7 that challenged medics in ways like never before.

"During previous exercises, we have been geared to doing fight-in-place scenarios," said Capt. Nathan Martin, 35th MDG medical control center operator. "So this time we dug into some research and thought 'What skills do we need to be really good at?'"

Martin said his medical team - under the tutelage of 35 MDG Commander Col. Alden Hilton - aggressively worked to re-tool their approach to exercises by putting medics through high-intensity scenarios that had them care for a patient through every step of the recovery process.

Rather than operating in a deployed environment with limited caretaking services that traditionally sent patients elsewhere, Misawa medics took the chance to act as the receiving end during this exercise by accepting and treating medically evacuated patients as the host station.

In the past, role players served as patients, leaving medics the duty of solely diagnosing them because role players were required to return to their respective units. This time around, Capt. Ryan McGuire, 35th Medical Support Squadron readiness flight commander, said the group teamed up to make dozens of manikins that now provide an aspect of continuity as medics can now provide care to individual patients through the entire exercise.

"While role players can be great because they can talk and act, these new patients fill the litter and don't go anywhere," Martin said. "It helps us focus on a lot of the things we're working to improve, and it's going to strain the staff in a good way, keeping them engaged, productive and challenged."

The aspect of realism was injected from the get-go as exercise planners obtained medical records from hundreds of deployed Airmen who had sustained real-life injuries while serving overseas as part of U.S. Central Command. They replicated these records by assigning their injuries to exercise patients.

"There are patients here suffering injuries varying from hernia tears to being shot and blown up in war, so there's a sense of realism that helps the patient care teams," Martin said. "It forces us to take this seriously and really make sure we have enough meds on hand and all our machines are calibrated properly if we need to administer anesthesia."

Another upgrade that beefed up the exercise, at least for medical personnel, was nearly doubling the number of patients that medics encountered on some shifts. Martin said last quarter's ORE saw medics face around five patients per shit, whereas Monday's day shift delivered 15 patients.

"We're getting a large influx of patients to really test our limitations," McGuire said. "We wanted to hit them hard to enforce realism and allow them to gradually work through scenarios to get that real-world feel."

Maj. Ryan Hackett, 35th Medical Operations Squadron family medicine physician, has felt the pressure first-hand, and said it only works to benefit caretakers.

"It's a lot more realistic," Hackett said. "The fact we're keeping them here for a while lets us work on a number of things. It has really overloaded us and tested our limits."

Hackett's most recent patient was injured in an improvised explosive device attack, suffered a jaw laceration and lost some teeth. Hackett said in a real-world scenario, he would work to prevent infection and control pain until they were able to either find an opening for surgery or relocate him to a larger facility.

"The biggest challenge is that we're facing things we don't see every day, so I have to pull out skills I haven't used in a while," Hackett said. "That can be tough, but we have a lot of good resources and I think in the end it helps us make the best decisions for our patients."


This article was originally published at:

- PACOM: (posted May 6, 2014) -


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