Cutting-edge medical training facility prepares medics for combat
Enter table 1, a 14-by-16-foot pitch-black room illuminated by strobe light, automatic machine-gun fire mixed with explosions rumble through the surround-sound speaker system, and a thick, smoky fog imitating just that; the fog of war.
Wounded are sprawled out across the blood-stained floor, suffering amputations, gunshot wounds, lacerations. Their eyes blink, their chests rise and fall with every breath, they bleed.
Combat Medic Pfc. Elise McNabb, opens her aid bag, reaching for tourniquets, bandages, tape; anything to stop the bleeding and maintain her patient's breathing.
This is the closest to the real thing McNabb and the combat medics of the Indiana National Guard 738th Area Support Medical Company, headquartered in Monticello, Ind., will see without actually stepping into harm's way. The Medical Support Training Center located at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in central Indiana, is one of only 24 of its kind across the globe.
The $1.5 million, 7,500-square-foot training center is the newest in the world, opening its doors to combat medics in March 2011. It is the second to be built for the National Guard after Camp Shelby, Miss.
"It's stressful, it gets pretty intense at times," said McNabb. "You really have to stay focused and keep calm."
McNabb said anyone can study and recite what they've learned, "But when you're actually doing the hands on treatment in a stressful environment you tend to fumble. You really need to learn to keep your cool and stay focused."
The aim of this state-of-the-art facility is to create a stressful environment at the control of the instructors.
"These guys' jobs are to go out there and save lives," said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Fodrie, noncommissioned officer in charge of the facility. "We can't train them to do that in a nice sterile environment. They've got to be under stress because when they need to perform on the battlefield, they're used to it."
Instructors at the course have strict control over the stressful environment by manipulating the lighting, sound levels, and fog. Computer operated mannequins simulate breathing, bleeding and even dying if not treated properly. The course is under constant camera surveillance, allowing instructors to record students' performances and critique them in an open classroom setting.
"We've had a lot of students come up to us and say, 'Hey, this is the best class I've ever been to,'" said Fodrie. "We try to give them the most realistic environment possible."
McNabb and the 738th ASMC are training to stay current on their National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certifications. Their perishable medical skills require constant practice to maintain.
"This gives them continued education toward their certification," said Capt. Ashley Clifton, 738th ASMC commander. "There are only a few medical units in the Indiana National Guard so we get a lot of taskings from the infantry brigades and other companies that need medical support for ranges and combat life savers training. Therefore it's paramount that our medics maintain their training so they can go out and support and train other units as well."
In addition to combat medic sustainment, the center offers training in the combat life savers course, basic life savers course, CPR, and familiarization of the individual first aid kit issued to every deploying Soldier. Medical expert instructors are capable of training 2,500 students annually.
Article by Sgt. John Crosby, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs