81 MDG participates in 'Green Flag' exercise

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
A 13-member team from the 81st Medical Group participated in a "Military Green Flag" exercise at the Army's Fort Polk, La., Joint Training Readiness Center March 8-19.

They were part of a 47-person aeromedical evacuation element which supported a 4,800-member Army brigade under austere battlefield conditions.

According to Lt. Col. Bonnie Stiffler, 81st Inpatient Operations Squadron and En Route Patient Staging System team commander, the Keesler contingent and the rest of the AE element trained to provide rapid response expeditionary patient staging during the initial phase of contingency operations in support of ground forces from a variety of joint agencies.

"The exercise was intended to test and validate team preparedness and operations under medium-threat intensity," she explained.

Col. Tami Rougeau, senior observer, controller, trainer and individual mobilization augmentee to the Air Mobility Command's assistant director of operations for aeromedical operations, stated the medical participants "trained with our service partners to execute the patient movement program."

"Over the past several years we've been operating in environments where we would move patients from already-established locations," Stiffler noted, "Most likely with the next future conflict we support, we will be inserting medics into a bare-base environment to support the combatant commander by establishing casualty evacuation during the initial phases of conflict.

"This 'Green Flag' basically exercised our people from a bare base with the ERPSS there to support a combat brigade," she added. "The entire AE group deployed with the combat brigade to set up from a bare base and process casualties in that situation."

In addition to Keesler's 13-person ERPSS team, the AE element included three five-person AE flight crews; and a two-member Air Evacuation Liaison Team that was embedded with Army medics to train them how to use the Air Force evacuation system to process their casualties into the AE system so they can be placed on aircraft and flown out of the combat area. There also was a seven-person AE Operations Team which coordinated aircrews for outbound missions.

The ERPSS received patients from the combat area medical facility, staged them and prepared them for flight by ensuring they had the correct equipment, medications and supplies. Patients were stabilized, transported to the flight line by various means and placed on an aircraft for movement to a higher-care treatment facility.

Describing the ERPSS' role, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Harrell, a nurse with the 81st Surgical Operations Squadron, said, "We can pick up and deploy to any situation in the world, whether it be a humanitarian mission or in a time of war, and provide staging for patients that need transport. We provide basic care such as changing dressings, inserting IVs and doing basic assessments just to get them home. Patients already would have been cared for in emergency rooms or medical/surgical units."

Summing up the exercise, Col (Dr.) Tom Harrell, 81st MDG commander, observed, "The deployment experience afforded was robust and created a fast-paced environment full of impromptu challenges. It tested leadership reaction abilities and stress responses under challenging conditions and afforded many lessons learned to promote future team preparation, as well as personal lessons learned by leadership and team members. With our current transitioning deployment operations, the likelihood of deploying into this type of insertion operations or threat environment is credible."

He added, exercises such as this "show soldiers we will bring them home, safe and fast"

In addition to Stiffler, the Keesler ERPSS team included: operations officer Maj. Jeffery Kincannon, 81st Medical Support Squadron; nurses Maj. John Funke, 81st IPTS, and 1st Lts. Elizabeth Harrell and Megan Freund, 81stMSGS; medical technicians Tech. Sgt. Kristine Mayfield and Staff Sgts. Ashley Proctor, Logan Shillcox and Christopher Foster, 81st Medical Operations Squadron; Senior Airman Corey Evans, 81st IPTS; Airmen 1st Class Claudiairene Godinez, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron; and Eric Alexander, 81st MSGS; and health services management specialist Senior Airman Jason Whelchel, 81st AMDS.

Foster, Shilcox and Whelchel were cited as "standout performers" at the end of the exercise.