By Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Williams, Golden Medic Public Affairs
/ Published June 22, 2007
AUGUSTA, GA. --
After three days of preparation and classroom training, the exercise portion of the Army Reserve's largest annual medical exercise got under way in Augusta, Ga., in June.
Golden Medic 2007 tests the ability of Army and Air Force medical units to transfer patients from the battlefield to a well-equipped regional hospital outside the theater.
Now in its 13th year of participation, the Air Force component of the exercise has grown from a 25-person support team to an active role and nearly 500 Airmen are participating. Several of them are from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, Calif., including members of the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron and the 752nd Medical Squadron.
More than 400 Airmen from active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command units set up a base at the Augusta Regional Airport-Bush Field. Another 68 Airmen joined 3,000 Soldiers at nearby Fort Gordon for training activities and the exercise.
The patient movement process began with the first "casualty." Medics and corpsmen arrived first on the scene to evaluate and stabilize the patients.
From the scene, they transported the wounded to a mobile field hospital, either an Army combat support hospital or Air Force expeditionary medical support facility. An EMEDS facility is equipped to provide mobile field surgery, sick call and around-the-clock medical care, with a 10-bed recovery ward.
"Our Airmen maintain great attitude, but it will be a real test to see how well they perform under pressure when the patients arrive," said Master Sgt. Danny Glover, an aerospace medical craftsman from the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Medical Group.
"I'm especially interested in seeing our Airmen work in a joint environment with the Soldiers," said the sergeant, who is working as an international health specialist during the exercise. "Communication between the two services will be a key to our success."
From an EMEDS, an ambulance or UH-1 Huey helicopter takes patients to a contingency aeromedical staging facility where medical teams assess their condition for long-range transportation to a base outside the theater.
"We're basically a holding company," said Col. James Patterson, commander of the 932nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "Our job is to prepare the patient for further transportation.
"In the operational environment, casualties are airlifted from Southwest Asia to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where the contingency aeromedical staging facility ensures patient transportation to and from Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany," he said.
For the exercise, the patients arrived from Fort Gordon and were flown to and from Pope AFB, N.C., to fulfill the longrange transportation requirement, said Colonel Patterson.
"During the exercise, we are expecting to encounter different scenarios including chemical attacks, night landing, aircraft loading, mentally unstable patients, and certainly challenges like unexpected power outages and mass casualties," he said. "This is practicing what we know. Sixty percent of our available staff has deployed, some multiple times."
Despite all of the training and certifications, every exercise is a new challenge and learning opportunity for Senior Airman Victoria Findley.
"I don't even know what to expect," said the 932nd ASTS dietary technician. "But we come prepared and we'll do our best to accomplish the mission. We just have to be flexible and adapt to changes. It can become hectic, but if everyone does his or her job, we'll get through it OK."
Proper command and control coordination from the contingency response element enables expeditionary medical support and contingency aeromedical staging facilities to function effectively.
Like its predecessor, the tanker airlift control center, the contingency response element tracks the various aircraft and facilitates a smooth transition between the medical units and aircraft.
"We provide the command and control link among all of the players and the Air Force Reserve Command," said Senior Master Sgt. Steve Crook, 94th Airlift Control Flight superintendent from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. "The key players in the exercise look to us for information on inbound and outbound aircraft, so they can coordinate their missions with the aircraft flight schedule in order to keep missions running on time."
The contingency response element is involved in the exercise because of the lack of military presence at Bush Field, said Sergeant Crook. The mobile command and control unit can be deployed anywhere around the world in 36 hours and be self-sufficient for up to 30 days.
"We're anticipating a few bumps at first but it will smooth out," said Sergeant Crook. "We expect any bumps at kick off to be resolved immediately. We're going to be as flexible as possible."
Master Sgt. Carlos Rosado, a med tech from the 932nd ASTS and a veteran of numerous overseas deployments including a tour in Iraq, summed up his expectations for the exercise and Golden Medic.
"All of our classroom training has prepared us for what we need to do for this exercise," Sergeant Rosado said. "This training is invaluable.
"When you deploy, you're going to wish you were here to learn how to load that aircraft or put up that tent," he said. "Other than the combat zone, where in the world are you going to go to get this type of training? This is a phenomenal opportunity."