Expeditionary Medical Support training keep skills sharp, ready

Serving in military medicine is a genuine privilege. It’s a daunting task balancing the needs of the sick and injured with the requirements of the Air Force mission, but to provide care for our Airmen, retirees and the families that support them is an honor.

Training helps keep us ready for each mission at all times; whether it’s inside the medical center for our patients, in a simulation center with controlled scenarios, or in the field and in the air practicing “what-if” scenarios.

In addition to our home station duties, every individual working in the Air Force Medical Service is also assigned to a unit-type code (the basic building block of a deployment team). These range from rapidly establishing a hospital in a combat zone to humanitarian aid on the edge of a natural disaster.

Many Airmen spend their lives within reach of a phone call knowing that in 72 hours they could be a thousand miles away providing care to the seriously injured. Citizens the world over know that the most elite and well-trained Air Force in history stands ready to keep them safe from harm.

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My recent experience at the Expeditionary Medical Support training at Camp Bullis, Texas, was an intense week-long event meant to prepare Airmen from all aspects of medical care to work together in a rapidly deployable, fully functioning hospital. A mandatory bi-annual training for all personnel assigned to the EMEDS and Ground Surgical Teams, we reviewed basic skills for setting up a weather resistant tent city hospital.

We also practiced the proper techniques for transporting and loading patients in vehicles, ranging from ground ambulances to C-130s. These are skills and knowledge we don’t gain providing day-to-day patient care in our clinics and hospitals.

The entire student body trains in performing critical tasks meant to save the lives of injured personnel in combat scenarios ranging from immediate tourniquets to emergency cricothyroidotomies. The exercise culminates with multiple mass-casualty scenarios that push the class to its limits. We bring patients all the way from a surprise mortar attack through the hospital where emergency surgery and care is simulated, and patients are ultimately sent out via aircraft to fictional hospitals in bases around the world.

The training is intense, but the students leave ready to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world to help sustain the fighting force.

It is not an easy task always staying ready and reliable to provide that lifesaving care. Getting any team to work effectively with one another is challenge enough, but forming a fully functional 25-bed hospital overnight is something else entirely. Being able to perform surgeries, blood transfusions, radiological studies and more, directly translates to lives saved.

The highest level of proficiency and flexibility is needed to keep this symphony of care flowing. Two traits that are only obtained from constant rigorous practice.

Why does the 88th Medical Group close non-emergent services once a month for training? Because practice is what keeps these skills sharp. Technically proficient Airmen are what let the AFMS step up and save lives when all hope seems lost. Knowing that a group of skilled men and women have trained and stand ready to provide care for those in need is what helps our military push forward to accomplish any mission.

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