July 16, 2017 –
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — With a gentle brush stroke, the artist finalizes one of her many masterpieces of the day – a human puncture wound. She waits for the blood to congeal in the central California heat. What might seem like gory work to some, is a labor of love and a teaching point for Army Reserve 1st Lt. Rebecca Milligan.
On this day, Milligan, a nurse out of Fort Harrison, Montana, does make-up effects on training mannequins, as well as flesh-and-blood volunteers to better simulate mass trauma events. Playing with dolls and painting may sound fun, but this is serious work.
“Here, I’ve been able to take my nursing knowledge and apply it to the wounds that I’ve been helping create,” said Milligan, who is out of the 7407th Troop Medical Clinic out of Helena, Montana. As a member of the Effects and Enablers Team, (which is augmenting the 84th Training Command Combat Support Training Exercise and the Army Medical Command’s Global Medic Exercise headquartered at Fort Hunter Liggett, California), Milligan acts as a moulage and make-up artist, creating more realistic training for medical professionals throughout July’s Global Medic exercise at various locations throughout central California, as well as Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
For those they support at the Combat Support Hospital on Camp Roberts, California, this is training. For Milligan and her team, this is the real deal and the best way to promote a train-as-you-fight environment.
Nearly 5,400 service members from the U.S. Army Reserve, U.S. Army, Army National Guard, U.S. Navy, and Canadian Armed Forces are training at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, as part of the 84th Training Command’s CSTX 91-17- 03 and ARMEDCOM’s Global Medic; this is a unique training opportunity that allows U.S. Army Reserve units to train alongside their multi-component and joint partners as part of the America’s Army Reserve evolution into the most lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the nation.
The Effects and Enablers cell, or E&E Team, not only rely on special effects, they have some advanced medical equipment in their back pocket. A simulation mannequin that is remotely controlled can actually die on the operating table; what is known as a “cut suit” can go from the point of trauma all the way to an actual scalpel, helping medical professionals at all levels practice their art; and injured mannequins round out the chaotic scene left by the E&E crew.
“We’re providing real-world experiences through role players and mannequins,” said Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Terry Warren, a combat medic for the 7303rd out of Fort Gordon, Georgia, who is activated as the unit’s training manager. “This type of equipment eliminates notional training because it bleeds and it has a heart beat.”
Warren, who has more than 11 years in service, said these skills are important because medics who train realistically perform better when it matters. He also said this type of training allows them to maximize their training time as preparing the mannequins with simulated wounds helps them become more knowledgeable medics.
Each type of training tool plays a crucial role in supporting medical professionals. “Trauma Charlie,” as Milligan refers to the remote-controlled simulation mannequin, a life-like, almost 200-pound man, offers emergency medical professionals realistic situational training. The $66,000 “cut suit,” which is 90 percent anatomically accurate, is hooked up to a blood supply and can actually be medically controlled through real-life operations; it is the most realistic suit and can be worn by humans or mannequins, depending on scenario. Finally, the mannequins give the impression of those who have actually died on the battlefield, while the Soldier-volunteers bring the element of different personalities and pain levels to the field hospital.
This labor of love for many of the medical professionals and how they bring life to the training mannequins often comes from past experiences.
Specifically for Milligan, she was driven to this line of work after witnessing a massive rollover car accident as a teenager. “I went and did CPR on a patient… not sure if they lived or not,” she explained. “That pushed me in the direction to become a nurse.”
Training may actually be a matter of life and death for medical professionals, which is why the E&E team take their special effects and simulations so seriously.