Story & Photo by Tom
Michele, Eagle Systems & Services
Three physical therapists from the Tomah Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical
Center visited and observed the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT)
training session at Fort McCoy to learn how to better treat
servicemembers for injuries sustained in a Humvee rollover.
The training session conducted by the 1st, 340th Training Support
Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade was for personnel training to deploy
to Southcentral Asia in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring
Videographers from WXOW-TV 19 and WKBT-TV 8 record action video
of an Airman exiting a Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer at a
Fort McCoy classroom. Observer-Controller-Trainer Sgt. Mark
Fallon stands by the open turret hatch as the Humvee is tilted
on its side. The media was covering the story of Tomah VA
Medical Center physical therapists observing the training to
learn how to better treat servicemembers for injuries sustained
in a Humvee rollover.
All Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors preparing for deployment at Fort McCoy
go through the three-hour class as part of mobilization training.
The HEATs are Humvee cabins, minus engines, transmissions and wheel
assemblies, that can be rotated 360 degrees to simulate a rollover of
that vehicle. The occupants of the vehicle are taught how to respond in
Kris Valest, Tomah VA physical therapist and supervisor of physical
medicine and rehabilitation services, said the goal in visiting the
training at Fort McCoy was to better understand the biomechanics and
forces a Soldier receives in a rollover.
“We were able to see some of the side-to-side motion and different
angles that the head, neck and spine go through in the rollover action,”
Kelly Joyce, also a physical therapist, said she learned about the types
of injuries that can be generated in a rollover.
“I learned a lot about the jobs and physical positions of Soldiers in a
Humvee, such as where a turret gunner sits and is positioned on the
supporting strap, and similarly for the driver and passengers.”
“It is amazing that the door of an armored Humvee weighs 250 pounds and
that a Soldier may have to push or lift that door to exit the vehicle,”
Joyce said. The therapists also were shown that Soldiers exiting a
partially or totally rolled-over vehicle also may face incoming fire
from a threat situation.
“It is very easy to sustain injuries in just the exiting part of the
situation,” Joyce said. “It is difficult to understand what a Soldier is
going through unless you see it close-up, like we did at Fort McCoy.”
Valest said therapists “try to reverse the action sustained in the
rollover, to pinpoint the possible types of therapy to help Soldiers get
Many rollover injuries can include musculo-skeletal pain, according to
Valest. But she said flying objects inside the Humvee, including rifles,
ammunition, radios, personal gear, etc., easily can cause injuries.
Valest said the collaboration between the Department of Defense and the
Department of Veterans Affairs benefits the agencies and military
personnel receiving treatment.
“We will be sending (the information we learned from the training
session) into the national VA system so many more people will learn from
it,” Valest said.