FORT A. P. Hill, Va. — Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Charlottesville-based Company C, 429th Brigade Support Battalion and the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team joined Soldiers from the 75th and 78th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, First Army Division-East, 1st Medical Training Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and Sailors from the Expeditionary Medical Facility, U.S. Navy Reserve to participate in Warrior Exercise “Arctic Lightning” Jan. 24, 2015, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The 78th Training Division’s WAREX “Arctic Lightning” is specifically designed to gauge a USAR unit’s readiness to mobilize and deploy. Approximately 4,000 Soldiers from military police, transportation, engineer and medical units participated in the exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., and Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., and Fort A.P. Hill.
Va. Guard Soldiers entered the simulated austere overseas environment at Fort A.P. Hill on Jan. 23 and remained for an additional two days. Serving as augmentees to the 1,300-personnel contingent, Va. Guard combat medics, physician assistants, doctors, nurses and dentists simulated evaluating and evacuating casualties from a casualty collection point, establishing and operating a Forward Aid Station, operating a patient holding area and evacuating patients to a tactical medical treatment facility with members of the USAR and 101st Airborne Division.
“As part of the exercise, we were able to take patients from point of injury through levels one, two and three medical care,” explained Maj. Thomas Carr, senior physician assistant from Company C, 429th BSB. “We’re training side-by-side Soldiers from both the active duty and the Army reserves, Sailors from the Navy reserve and Airmen from the Air Force.”
“It really gives us an opportunity to train at and interact with other components at level three medical care, which we really never get to do at home station,” said Carr. “Anytime we [Medical Evacuate] someone, it’s always simulated or notional, here we get to actually send a patient to the [Combat Support Hospital] and get feedback on our evaluation and treatment.”
One of the many scenarios that the Va. Guard participated in was to support a squad of Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division as they maneuvered through a training lane. The Va. Guard provided a combat medic to support first aid needs along the route and to provide emergency medical support following any simulated engagement.
The remaining Va. Guard personnel established and operated a Forward Aid Station. Typically, manned by battalion-level medical sections, the FAS collects the sick and wounded from the battlefield and stabilizes the patients’ condition and is designed to support more than one unit or care as the parent unit advances or withdraws.
“We got here and the ground was soggy and we couldn’t set up our [Forward Aid Station] where we had originally planned, so we had to adjust and move further up the hill,” said Capt. Michael Hickey, battalion physician assistant, Headquarters Company, 3-116th Infantry. “I think we handled the adjustment pretty well, but then we observed incoming mortar fire—and life just stopped.”
“We had an infantry squad conduct a simple movement to contact battle drill and they took a casualty about two or three hundred meters along their route,” said Sgt. Davin Ernsberger, Headquarters Company, 3-116th Infantry. “This is a very real injury that can happen; it was very applicable to our mission.”
“We didn’t have security out yet, we didn’t have our triage areas set-up and all of a sudden we were getting a nine line [Medical Evacuation] request,” said Hickey. “This type of training mimics closer real-world scenarios; the weather, the types of injuries, the moulage helps a lot and most importantly the level at which we are able to operate—to be able to send patients up line and get feedback about their status is incredibly valuable.”
“We trained pretty hard on setting up the forward aid station and retrieving casualties from a casualty collection point for treatment, before they were evacuated back out to the [Combat Support Hospital],” said Sgt. Thomas Best, Company C, 429th BSB. “During our last annual training, we did something like this where we went out and collected casualties and did treatment, but we’ve never done this with other components.”
The entire training event was facilitated using the Decisive Action Training Environment 2.0, a program for exercise planners that uses current intelligence to create authentic training environments from real-world scenarios for units to tackle while maintaining a sense of operational integrity.
“There’s a ton of great training; learning about other components and their procedures, what they know and what they are normally used to doing, makes us more adaptable,” said Best.