Dogs, medics take to air

Story and photo by Maj. Chris N. Angeles 67th Forward Surgical Team

Sgt. Chad F. Salinero, a flight medic with C Company, 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, pets military working dog Anouska, a patrol explosive detector dog, during her first helicopter ride as she is held by Sgt. Joseph A. Tucci, a MWD handler with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment, Jan. 10.

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany Medical personnel, military working dogs and handlers worked together to train on how to care for injured MWDs and injured Soldiers and conduct aeromedical evacuation for both during an exercise Jan. 9 to 12 in Grafenwoehr Training Area.

Soldiers from a variety of KMC units including the 67th Forward Surgical Team, 100th Military Working Dog Detachment, 64th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support, medics from 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and aeromedical evacuation crews from C Company, 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion participated in the field training exercise.

“The vision for this FTX was for the 67th FST to conduct full spectrum-of-care training with any patient, human or canine in a winter environment to enhance the team’s readiness,” said Maj. Linda C. Benavides, general surgeon and FST team chief. “Having vet support, MWDs and handlers, field medics, and MEDEVAC personnel and helicopters made this training operationally relevant and was an amazing experience for all participants.”

In December the FST trained with the veterinary staff of Dog Center Europe at Pulaski Barracks. To build upon that training the FTX included classes by Maj. Christopher C. Corrie, veterinarian, and Sgt. Holly J. Schmidt, animal care specialist, both assigned to 64th MDVSS. Soldiers from the 67th FST, 3-2 Cav. Reg., and C 1-214th GSAB, along with a Soldier from the German army, learned about basic veterinary assessment, intravenous catheter placement and bandaging. They were then able to put these skills to use on actual MWDs, handled by Sgt. Joseph A. Tucci and Pvt. Molly B. Reichert, both MWD handlers with the 100th MWD.

For Corrie, training with the FST was an example of how two separate units with separate missions can enhance each other’s ability to provide patient care.

“The FST and veterinary detachments meld so effortlessly and have, in my experience, been significant force multipliers for each other downrange, especially in small operating bases,” Corrie said. “Any opportunities to train like this in an FTX is a win-win situation, and we look forward to more events like this in the future.”

Following the veterinary training, licensed practical nurses of the 67th FST taught classes on medications common to both air and ground emergency medicine, a class that flight medics found beneficial.

“I thought it was a good review for us,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy M. Wicklin, flight medic, C Co. 1-214th GSAB. “We carry all the drugs we talked about, and knowing which one I want to give and why is extremely important. They’re there, and we need to understand them.”

Following the training on the ground, MEDEVAC helicopters from C 1-214th GSAB arrived and Sgt. Alejandro Arredondo, a flight medic, instructed the group on MEDEVAC equipment as well as safe approach to a helicopter. All of the Soldiers then practiced approaching the aircraft as the rotors spun overhead.

“Safety is the main thing,” said Arredondo. “Having people going through and actually doing it is extremely important.”

Although the FST frequently conducts training on care-of-combat casualties, the participation of a MEDEVAC unit was a new experience unit members found valuable.

“Having the helicopter here and having MEDEVAC here to walk us through safely approaching and loading patients was extremely helpful,” said Sgt. Nicholas P. Bankston, operating room technician, 67th FST.

For Sgt. 1st Class David A. Thompson, detachment sergeant, 67th FST, having the MEDEVAC participating in training added to the realism and value of the training, particularly during the scenario training on the final day.

“To actually call up a nine-line was a new thing,” Thompson said. “We have trained on it before, but there is no substitute for actually calling it in to a MEDEVAC and having everything happen in real time.”

All the steps involved in aeromedical evacuation were practiced throughout the exercise. After preparing patients for evac, four-person litter teams loaded the patients into the aircraft, who were then taken on a short flight above Grafenwoehr Training Area.

“The patient handoff for a critical care transport is a perishable skill, so we jump at every opportunity to train perfecting the skill,” said Sgt. Chad F. Salinero, flight medic, C 1-214th GSAB. “The handoff takes time, attention to detail and direct questions from the surgical team to ensure proper patient care in flight.”

For many of the Soldiers, this was their first time riding in a helicopter. However, Reichert, as a MWD handler, was concerned that this was also MWD Anouska’s first helicopter ride.

“At first I was worried because I didn’t know what was going to happen, but as soon as we got up in the air, she was so calm that I wasn’t even worried,” said Reichert.

Over the course of the FTX, the Soldiers of the 64th MDVSS, 3-2 CR and 1-214th GSAB, and the 67th FST worked hand in hand to increase the readiness of each of their respective units. For German soldier Master Sgt. Sandra Kuerzinger, a physician assistant student temporarily assigned to the MEDEVAC, it was a brand new experience training with the FST.

“It was great working with the FST,” Kuerzinger said. “I was not familiar with an FST, so I learned a lot. In Afghanistan we had American surgeons at our role II facility, but this is my first exposure to an all-American surgical team, and I hope we can work together again in the future.”