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September 09, 2011


Medical unit takes advantage of enhanced

RTS-MED support

By Maj. Mat Lawrence, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) Public Affairs

B Company of the 452nd Combat Support Hospital had a common dilemma when planning its annual training for 2011. The company had been tasked for numerous overseas training missions, but had to make training plans for the remaining Soldiers not traveling overseas.
PHOTO: Soldiers train on moving simulated litter patients at the Combat Litter Course. Photo by 1st Lt. Dustin Kinzinger
Soldiers from the 452nd Combat Support Hospital train on moving simulated litter patients at the Combat Litter Course at Fort McCoy. (Photo by 1st Lt. Dustin Kinzinger)

The solution was one the Army Reserve wants units to use more. B Company conducted a two-week annual training with one full week of assistance by Regional Training Site-Medical (RTS-MED) at Fort McCoy.

“The RTS-MED folks were sitting alone by themselves at our YTB (yearly training brief) waiting for someone to talk to them,” said Capt. Thaddeus Wiitanen, Executive Officer for B Company.

Wiitanen had heard earlier from the Army Reserve Ambassador for Wisconsin Gerald Meyer that RTS-MED was an under-used asset that offered outstanding services for training, so he approached them and asked how they could help.

The company had a number of training objectives to address. Many of the medical Soldiers not going overseas mostly had been left out.

In addition, there were a number of new Soldiers who had not worked together before. “I noticed a lot of new people,” said Wiitanen. “Nobody knew how to put up a hospital anymore.”

In fact, Soldiers that had been there for years may have had trouble as well. B Company had not established a field hospital since 2004.

RTS-MED offered B Company several advantages.

First, the training required little logistical support from the company because RTS-MED was able to supply it.

But most importantly, all B Company had to do was outline its training objectives to RTS-MED and leave the planning of the training to RTS-MED, leaving much less to coordinate.

PHOTO:A simulated combative  is detained during a hospital drill. Photo by 1st Lt. Dustin Kinzinger
Spc. Elizabeth Corona (center) of B Company, 452nd Combat Support Hospital is detained as a combative during a hospital drill. Sgt. Marco Torres of the 4203rd Army Hospital (left) and Spc. Thomas Byers of B Company, 452nd train on detainee operations. (Photo by 1st Lt. Dustin Kinzinger)

“We take away a lot of the confusion,” said Pat Welch, Training Lead Contractor for RTS-MED. “It seems a lot smoother when we run an exercise.”

Welch said the RTS-MED equipment can cover any type of medical unit with tents, hospitals, vehicles, simulators, and clinical sets. Units can use the facilities at Fort McCoy, or the trainers can come to the units themselves.

However, the best part is the cost. “We’re free,” and don’t cost the units anything, said Welch.

Planning quality training with RTS-MED usually takes three- to six months of coordination, although they have reacted on short notice in the past. But the most important thing is for a unit to understand what their objectives are from the start.

“When it’s a large group, it (the problem) is not so much of what they need, but the unit figuring out what they want,” said Greg Roberts, Clinical Coordinator and Training Supervisor Contractor for RTS-MED. Roberts said companies often approach RTS-MED with one set of training objectives and continually revise them as time goes by. The commanders either get new requirements from their headquarters or they change their minds about their intent, causing last-minute planning adjustments.

RTS-MED helps add creativity to training scenarios. B Company, after establishing a hospital, had to operate it as the RTS-MED trainers threw various simulated situations at them, including attacks and combative patients.

“Nothing was ‘notional’ in this training,” said Wiitanen, citing a common practice where Soldiers “assume” they complete an action because real infrastructure outside the exercise does not exist in a training environment.

The Soldiers of B Company enjoyed the ability to do things that were a little different. In addition to the common training units perform such as physical fitness tests and weapons qualification, RTS-MED added a litter obstacle course, medical “lanes” where medics performed treatment scenarios, an advanced combat life-saver course, medic qualification training, and of course, the hospital exercise.

The training did expose a common problem among Soldiers who have not worked together for long — communication.
“Getting information out and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be was the hardest part,” said Capt. Kathy Seifarth, a B Company nurse involved in the training.

Welch and Roberts didn’t know why RTS-MED is not fully used. They are busy during the spring and summer training seasons from April through September at Fort McCoy, but RTS-MED personnel also can travel to the units’ locations to provide training.

“We’re happy to have people come, and we do make house calls,” said Welch.

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