Jordanian and American soldiers partnered together to conduct medical evacuation drills for the first time with a U.S. Army Reserve aviation asset during several days in August.
The training allowed soldiers from the Jordan Armed Forces’ 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, medics and pilots from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, and medics with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan to work together for the first time. The Army Reserve aviators and medics are participating in exercise Eager Lion 2019, which is U.S. Central Command’s premiere exercise in the Levant region that provides U.S. forces, Jordan Armed Forces and 28 other participating nations the opportunity to improve their collective ability to plan and operate in a coalition-type environment.
“As a flight medic it is my responsibility to make sure that anyone who comes up to the aircraft knows the proper procedure when it comes to safety and security, as well as the type of capabilities that we have as a medevac unit,” said Sgt. Michelle Shinafelt, flight medic, Golf Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, who was also the lead instructor for the training.
The first day began with group instruction that outlined basic procedures and hand signals that would be used throughout the MEDEVAC training. Shinafelt and Sgt. Ignacio Aparicio, a crew chief with Golf Company, provided the details to the Jordanian soldiers as they learned the basic procedures of loading and unloading a litter-bound patient onto an aircraft.
“I just wanted them to feel comfortable with the aircraft but also know how dangerous it can be as well and be careful when it comes to approaching the aircraft,” Shinafelt said. “I was very impressed with the Jordanians. They’re very high-speed, and I was very impressed with what I saw.”
The training progressed through basics and on to the Jordanian soldiers reacting to contact, sustaining casualties, providing initial medical care and then calling for a medical evacuation. For many of the JAF soldiers this was their first opportunity to work medical evacuations with an American helicopter crew.
“When we are training with the U.S. Army, we are getting new skills,” said JAF 1st Sgt. Mohammed Mussa Mohammed, senior enlisted leader for the 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion. “This skill will be delivered to our Soldiers and we will use it back in the field when we go join our battalions.”
Training together allows each nation to learn from each other and build partner capacity and confidence in each other.
“It’s very important, you’ve got different languages (that) can be a problem, but with the translators we’re getting everyone on the same page with how we operate especially with medevac,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ben Fisher, maintenance test pilot, 5-159th Aviation. “That way, when we land, they know what we need to do and what they need to do to get the patient out safely.”
In addition to the instruction the Americans are providing to their Jordanian counterparts, the Jordanians are equally as able to provide insight and instructions on their way of conducting these types of operations.
“It was a great chance for us to train with the U.S. Army,” Mohammed said. “It is very good for both sides. We get the benefit from the U.S. Army and also the U.S. Army team is all gaining a benefit and experience from the JAF themselves.”
To help bridge the language barrier, Shinafelt and Apaircio relied on hand signals to indicate when it was safe to approach and depart the aircraft.
“You can’t hear anything with the aircraft running, so yelling and talking, no one can hear you,” Shinafelt said. “If you are all on the same page as to what to do, those hand signals kind of put everyone on the same page so that everyone knows what’s going on.”
The situational exercise served to validate the training and ensure the two nations are better able to work together in the future.
“It makes us comfortable and it makes them more comfortable if something were to happen,” said 1st Lt. Kelly Slocum, platoon leader and pilot with Golf Company, 5-159th Aviation. “Making sure that we’re both comfortable with how we’re going to operate in a situation like this is key.”