Army Guard medics refresh training at Fort Pickett

Virginia Army National Guard medics from units across the state work through the culminating exercise of a four-day sustainment training course Aug. 7, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s urban operations training site. The course aimed to ensure Virginia’s medics are up to date on certifications required for their military occupational specialty. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Army National Guard medics from units across the state work through the culminating exercise of a four-day sustainment training course Aug. 7, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s urban operations training site. The course aimed to ensure Virginia’s medics are up to date on certifications required for their military occupational specialty. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Virginia Army National Guard medics from units across the commonwealth came together Aug. 4-7, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va., to conduct vital sustainment training that enables the medics to remain certified on life-saving techniques.

The 68W Health Care Specialist sustainment training is a mandatory biennial requirement for medics across the U.S. Army. Failure to go through the training and recertify leads to revocation of the 68W military occupational specialty and renders medics unable to provide valuable medical support to the Soldiers of their units.

“It’s a refresher,” explained Capt. Nicole Davis, the Virginia National Guard’s 68W coordinator and the executive officer of the Virginia National Guard’s Medical Command, on the course. “We’re hitting the main points here.”

Virginia Army National Guard medics from units across the state work through the culminating exercise of a four-day sustainment training course Aug. 7, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s urban operations training site. The course aimed to ensure Virginia’s medics are up to date on certifications required for their military occupational specialty. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Army National Guard medics from units across the state work through the culminating exercise of a four-day sustainment training course Aug. 7, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s urban operations training site. The course aimed to ensure Virginia’s medics are up to date on certifications required for their military occupational specialty. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Davis explained that the training is broken down into different sections, called tables, that focus on different areas of medical care, like trauma, the airway, and IVs. The students spend the first several days in the classroom going over the seven tables before heading out to the field on the last day to conduct their culminating, hands-on exercise, through medical lanes training.

“Lanes training, or skills validation, is my favorite,” explained Staff Sgt. Jennifer T. Johnson, the medical readiness noncommissioned officer for 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 91st Troop Command. “It’s when we get to use all we have learned in the classroom with hands on and get to run at full speed. It makes you feel good knowing you can use your skills to save a life.”

The medics had to navigate through both a trauma lane and a medical evaluation lane, taking turns reacting to and treating the different ailments of their “patients.” As they evaluated their casualties and administered aid, an instructor watched their every move, answering questions on the notional ailments and asking the medics questions about their choices in aiding their casualties.

Spc. Kelly Imperial, a medic with the 1033rd Transportation Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command said she was nervous about the practical exercise at first, but that, “it helps you remember the things that you might have missed and it’s an essential tool for us.”

All medics must undergo the refresher training and the course included medics going through the recertification process for the first time, as well as senior medics with decades of experience.

“Medical doctrine is constantly changing, plus our skills are perishable,” explained Johnson, on the importance of the course. “When you do not use something all the time, you tend to lose it, even if it has been drilled into you.”

Aside from fulfilling a mandatory requirement for the medics, Davis explained that the training also provides them a chance to share and learn from one another.

“There might be only two or three medics at the unit level, so this is also a time for them to be with their peers, to share stories, to share ideas and to build their confidence,” Davis explained.

Davis said her hope for the medics is that they leave the course confident of their skillset.

Photos: Va. Guard medics conduct sustainment training – Aug. 7, 2015