Geronimo medics complete annual certification

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Army Cpl. Katelynne Pace, a combat medic specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Alaska, performs a needle decompression on a simulated combat casualty during annual recertification at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 17, 2019.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Medics of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, conducted their annual certification, wrapping up with a comprehensive event Sept. 17.

“It was a refresher,” said Army Staff Sgt. Armando Gobel, who oversaw the training, which featured a high-tech mannequin. “We all took something from it. A lot of people realized for the first time just how tight a tourniquet has to be – we do them on humans, but it’s just place it and turn it a little as a walk-through. This allowed us to really crank down.”

The casualty is much more than the old-school dummy with a few tubes that ooze fake blood.

“We can see his chest rise and fall with breathing; he can speak to us; you can feel the pressure in his chest if he’s got a tension pneumothorax,” Gobel said. “When you do a needle chest decompression, you can hear the pop and the air escaping. A severed artery will spurt blood with the heartbeat.”

In short, it’s almost like working on the real thing.

“You can’t just apply pressure for a few seconds,” Gobel said. “To stop him bleeding, you have to apply pressure for more than three minutes.”

Before the wrap-up exercise, the 22 medics spent time going over the intricacies of battlefield casualty care, from tourniquets and IVs to ensuring a patient is getting air – through a nasopharyngeal airway tube or even cutting a hole in the windpipe, called a cricothyrotomy. They practiced dressing surface wounds and packing deeper wounds with gauze, and calling for medical evacuation with a nine-part request which gives helicopter pilots all the information they need for extracting injured personnel.

They also reviewed patrolling techniques and shooting using the Electronic Skills Trainer – essentially an immersive, lifelike video game which puts Soldiers into shoot-or-don’t-shoot situations like moving through a village with friendly and enemy personnel.

“It was cumulative,” Gobel said. “After the in-depth classes and the patrolling, we got the guys really smoked and tired with [physical training] – exhausted, so they’d have to work off muscle memory.”

Much like a “stress shoot,” where riflemen have to fire accurately while out of breath and shaky from exertion, the medics had to provide critical care to the casualty without letting their exertion get the better of them.

All did well, Gobel said, but one Soldier stood out.

“Specialist Angel Amador was the top-ranked of all the medics,” he said. “He was outstanding. He didn’t miss anything. He’s in really great shape, so even after we did the patrols and rehearsals, he was doing fine. He caught the casualty wasn’t breathing, and stopped the bleeding fast.”

While the training is an annual requirement, it was timed for just before the battalion’s movement to Exercise Arctic Anvil, making sure the medics are fully prepared for the exercise. Arctic Anvil prepares the 4-25 for their upcoming rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, coming up early next year.

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