[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                             May 12, 2006
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Active-duty medical unit trains at Fort McCoy before deploying

By Loni Witscheber, Triad Contributor

      The 21st Combat Support Hospital (CSH) Task Force (TF MED 21), headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom after training at Fort McCoy's Medical Tactical Training Base for two weeks in April.

Photo: Members of the 21st Combat Support Hospital assist a detainee role player during training at McCoy. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)
Members of the 21st Combat Support Hospital assist a detainee role player during training at McCoy. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)

      Maj. Leah M. Eubanks, Army Nurse Corps, 2nd Brigade, 85th Division, Training Support Battalion (TSB), an exercise officer in charge, played a major role in coordinating the detainee training for TF MED 21.

      "We made copies of actual paperwork they'll use when overseas so that they can become familiar with it when they do a physical assessment," said Eubanks. "The paperwork has the Arabic translation behind it."

      Eubanks said each detainee receives a mental health screening, as well as a monthly height and weight check so that their health can be assessed. Along with the paperwork, Eubanks said approximately 200 medical charts were created for infiltration training last year for the 344th CSH, and subsequently used by TF MED 21. The project included creating mock Arabic names,  medical histories, and scenarios.

      Lt. Col. Danny C. Tye, command surgeon (West Division) for First U.S. Army and senior observer controller/trainer for TF MED 21, said the 21st is the first active-duty medical unit to request medical detainee training at the same location as reserve-component units.

      "This is the first active-duty unit deployed from Fort McCoy with a detainee mission," said Tye. "Fort McCoy is considered a 'Standard of Excellence' for medical detainee training and is being identified as the primary location for medical training in the future, both for the reserve and the active-duty components."

      "TF MED 21, as well as all medical units, provide the same medical treatment to both detainees and coalition forces," Tye said.

      Col. Jeffrey Clark, commander of TF MED 21 and a family medicine practitioner, observed the training that the 344th CSH received last year at Fort McCoy and requested his unit receive the same detainee preparation.

Photo: Members of the 21st   Combat  Support  Hospital  assist a detainee role player during training at McCoy. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)
Members of the 21st Combat Support Hospital assist a detainee role player during training at McCoy. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)

      "This mission is very important. The way we conduct ourselves is significant," said Clark. "I can think of no other place that my troops needed to be at this time."

      The unit was divided into two teams due to split-base operations.  Tye said that while one team was undergoing detainee training at MED TTB, the other team was conducting Soldier training, such as the Ground Assault Convoy Lanes Training Exercise and weapons qualifications.

      The unit underwent a final mass-casualty exercise before deployment. 

      Col. Timothy Reese, chief nurse for TF MED 21, said the three- to four-hour mass-casualty exercise consisted of patients moulaged by Regional Training Site-Medical as both detainees and coalition forces.

      "The operating room becomes busy prepping for immediate urgent-care patients, while the intensive-care units prepare space.  The lab, pharmacy, and administrative staffs are kept busy throughout the mass-casualty exercise," said Reese.

      After-action reports follow the exercise, and Reese said several questions are discussed to evaluate competency and skill levels:

       What really happened?

       Who is involved and what were their roles during the event?

       What improvements could have been made?

      "They take those lessons learned and come up with three things that worked very well and three things that didn't work so well -- it's called the 'three ups and three downs,'" said Reese. "Every section of the hospital will sit together with the leadership, and someone will facilitate a hospitalwide issue." 

      TF MED 21 also will undergo the same evaluation process in theatre.

      Lt. Col. David Sproat, deputy commander for Clinical Services for the Task Force, said the training at Fort McCoy has prepared the unit to be ready at all times.

      "The training at Fort McCoy has been phenomenal.  The setup detainee play has been very good, especially with helping our staff understand what kind of precautions they need to take while still providing the best-possible care to detainees," said Sproat. "And the Soldier training was the best training I've ever received in my Army career."   

      Lt. Col. Henrietta W. Brown, a registered nurse for TF MED 21, offers complete comprehensive care to detainees and coalition forces in the Mental Health sector.

      Brown said personnel working in the Mental Health sector are responsible for a patient's comfort, including talking to the patient, holding their hand if needed, and offering pain medication. 

      Master Sgt. Alfred L. Pemberton, chief ward master, said the training at Fort McCoy prepared TF MED 21 for its mission down range.

      "Training at Fort McCoy got us away from the usual wards, setups, and equipment," said Pemberton. "Normal medical equipment can be used as a weapon in theatre."

      "Training has been very beneficial.  The facility was run very well by staff without detainees, but once the detainee role players were added, the training at Fort McCoy just increased our awareness and ability to see what we do and how we have to modify it in a different environment," said Lt. Col. Nancy Robles-Stokes, assistant chief nurse for TF MED 21.

      The purpose here is to train so that people become instinctive in their reactions, said Eubanks.

(Witscheber is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

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