MARIBOR, Slovenia --
U.S. Air Force Reserve medical personnel assigned to the 301st Fighter Wing, 301st Medical Squadron, out of Carswell Field, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas; and the 433rd Medical Support Squadron out of San Antonio, Texas, were bombarded by simulated patients in a mass casualty scenario during Immediate Response 2019 (IR19), in Maribor, Slovenia, May 17, 2019.
Over 250 participants from the U.S., Slovenian and Macedonian militaries, and local civilian agencies participated in the IR19 event which continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations.
For several days prior to the mass casualty exercise the U.S. service members trained with the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) by treating injured patients whose wounds simulated realistic combat injuries, such as burns and amputations. The two nations traded roles and worked side by side in each other’s medical facilities, allowing both militaries the opportunity to build interoperability and test the capabilities of each expeditionary medical services facility, health responsive team (EMEDS HRT).
Lt. Col. Eric Thompson, 301st MDS, 301st MDG, and an observer during the exercise described the importance of working with other nations, how they grew together as a team and how the training will benefit future deployments.
“The good part is having the Slovenians learn our processes, then us learning their processes,” said Thompson. “Having their ER nurses and techs working with our doctors taught us different ways to do our jobs.”
Before working with Slovenian military members, the U.S. medics began their training by building the EMEDS HRT facility to full operating capacity within 12 hours and treating over 40 patients during an internal exercise.
Col. Lawson Copley, commander of the 301st MDS, 301st MDG, Carswell Field, Naval Air Station, Fort Worth, Texas, emphasized how well prepared the citizen Airmen were even before arriving in Slovenia, because they work in the medical field as civilians and some treat patients like the ones they were treating during IR19.
“Several of us come from level one trauma centers where we work on injuries that are very similar to this,” said Copley. “In addition, our team took the extra effort and reviewed the joint trauma system clinical practice guidelines, which describe the types of war injuries that we might see in a combat or contingency situation.”
The overall objectives of IR19 are to build multinational, regional, and joint readiness; enhance mil-to-mil relationships; and improve interoperability. The working relationship between Slovenia and the U.S. highlights those objectives.
“It’s important, it’s the point, to mix groups, mix teams together to interflow all the medical knowledge and also how to handle the mass casualty situation,” said Class XIV Andrag Strahovnik, Surgeon General, SAF.
Copley agreed and marveled at how well they were able to work together and test their capabilities with critical and non-critical patients.
“The exercise went very well, he said. “We exercised mixed teams and had a tremendous time working right alongside the Slovenians.”
There are approximately 6,000 participants from 15 nations participating in IR19. Participation in multinational exercises like IR19 enhances professional relationships and improves overall coordination with allies and partners during a crisis.