MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina -- Navy Corpsmen with 2nd Medical Battalion and the supplemental health services augmented personnel that they were training waited eagerly for the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter touch down on the field at Training Landing Zone Canary. The wind blew through their hair, sending dust flying into their eye protection, while the noise of the helicopter’s blades whooshed over their heads. They gripped the stretcher bearing a simulated trauma patient tightly, preparing to rush into the aircraft the moment it landed. They were earnest about the training, knowing that one day soon, someone’s life may depend on it.
Alpha Surgical Company, 2nd Med Bn. conducted a field exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 19-26, 2015, in order to prepare HSAP’s for deployment in support of exercises African and Eager Lion.
The purpose of the exercise was to train and familiarize the HSAP’s on the standard operating procedures of Forward Resuscitative Surgical Systems and Shock Trauma Platoon. An STP is a medical tent trauma center where patients are triaged and treated, explained Navy Cmdr. Luis E. Marquez, an HSAP with the Medical Corps from Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Florida. The most urgent cases are then brought into the FRSS, a mobile operating room, where the Navy doctors perform life-saving surgery. The patients are stabilized so that they may be moved to a higher echelon of care, he said.
During the exercise, corpsmen treated simulated patients sporting exploded eyes, gunshot wounds, severe blast burns and brain injuries. They handled each new case with grace and composure, despite the chaotic atmosphere.
“This field setting is one of the most realistic I’ve never experienced,” said Cmdr. Mark A. Dobbertion, a minimally invasive surgeon HSAP with the Medical Corps from Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. “The wounds on the patients are done so well they almost become real.”
Dobbertion also explained that another major goal of the exercise is to familiarize the group with each other’s skillsets and to establish bonds. By better understanding the team’s experience levels and capabilities, they will be more able to assign specific roles and responsibilities.
Along with treating patients, the group also experienced the feeling of fighting the wind and noise of a real helicopter. Marine Transport Squadron 1 supported the battalion by providing the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter for the corpsmen to practice loading and unloading patients.
“In my opinion,” Dobbertion said, “this is the best pre-deployment training I’ve gone through in my career. The level of sophistication is remarkable. The event was extremely well-coordinated and choreographed and the whole situation felt exceedingly realistic.”