JOLON, Calif. –
Exercise Global Medic provides robust opportunities for military medical personnel to improve their proficiencies in realistic training environments, while combining forces with sister service branches and international military participants. The exercise provides an opportunity to test, evaluate, and ultimately validate military medical personnel in an austere environment. This is a vital requirement that is particularly important as Soldiers and Sailors are returning to the field after months of scheduled training activities postponed or limited by the global pandemic.
For one Army Reserve unit, the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support), the extremes of the high desert of Fort Hunter Liggett and the fast operational tempo of Global Medic are a jarring change from a training environment that has been mostly virtual for many new Soldiers.
“It’s amazing to watch these Army Reserve Soldiers in a field training environment engage their mission. They’re coming out of a period where medical represented the main effort in a public health emergency, but it’s possible that many of these Soldiers have been away from a field training environment for quite some time,” said Brig. Gen. Peder Swanson, commander of the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support).
For the U.S. Navy Reserve medical units involved in Global Medic, the exercise challenges them to deliver synchronized joint, multi-component, and multinational world class expeditionary healthcare to meet combatant commander requirements in a complex and large-scale operational environment. The Army Reserve Medical Command's Medical Readiness and Training Command enables the U.S. Armed Forces to maintain a ready status by providing annual campaign-quality joint accredited collective medical training exercises. Global Medic is the largest joint patient movement and medical field training exercise within the Dept. of Defense.
As Global Medic has evolved, partnerships with several other exercises have expanded to include a full range of sustainment operations, including but not limited to medical health services, force health protection, logistics, maintenance, fueling, engineering, communications, firefighting, combat camera and public affairs operations. Global Medic allows participants to function in a broader range of simulated battlefield scenarios and is conducted twice a year at two joint certified U.S. Army Reserve training sites, Ft. McCoy, Wis. and Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.
The purpose of the exercise is to provide practical experience in the Expeditionary Medical Facility environment. Training is conducted under austere conditions in a simulated wartime environment. Much of the training material is covered in a compressed period, resulting in a demanding training schedule for the Soldiers and Sailors taking part.
HM2 Ashleigh Mitchell a 12-year Navy Reservist, is no stranger to Global Medic, having participated in Northern Lights/Global Medic exercises in 2011, 2016, 2018, and 2021. She brings a wealth of knowledge and perspective to the field and this year’s exercise.
“This exercise is important because the information taught throughout each hospital department carries over into a deployment setting,” Mitchell said. “When I was deployed in Afghanistan, I did not know what to expect, but the training I have received from multiple years of Global Medic helped make the transition a little easier, because I was knowledgeable about different areas of the hospital and always remained flexible to needs of the Navy.”
Mitchell was part of the last corpsman group to go through Hospital Corpsman “A school” through Great Lakes before it transitioned to joint training in San Antonio.
“As a corpsman, learning multiple facets of how a field hospital is set up and the duties and responsibilities within give a better understanding of what could happen in a real-life deployment setting,” Mitchell said.
“I enjoy the hands-on training because it prepares me for stressful situations, while being in a controlled training environment where it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. It also assists in gaining skillsets beyond the medical realm expanding unit specialties to adapt and overcome, while working as a team to come up with solutions along the way.”
Cmdr. Deborah Collins, officer in charge of virtual detachment, Great Lakes, and a certified physician’s assistant offered her perspective on her role at Global Medic 2021.
“I want to understand the process of a Joint Combined Exercise from an Administration standpoint,” said Collins. “As a Physician’s Assistant, I understand medicine, but to run a hospital or take care of the day-to-day operations while in theater is a whole different animal.”
“I would measure success on this mission for my sailors as to whether I can effectively prepare them for going downrange,” added Collins. “Many of these Sailors are educated professionals who already know how to be doctors and nurses, but they do it in controlled environments. This is not a controlled environment, so learning the process of practicing ‘theater medicine’ and how to work as a team is the over-arching goal of this mission.”
Collins sees her role as one of mentorship as well.
“I volunteered for this role because I love teaching and working with junior corpsman and officers. At the end of the day, if I haven't made an impact on one Sailor's life or career, then I haven't done my job. I love working in a team environment, and seeing the process come together.”
A total of 214 Sailors are assigned to one of three phases of training. The first involved the build of the hospital facility. This includes construction of a 44-bed tent compound, which consists of a triage area, emergency room, operating room, intensive care unit, acute care ward, pharmacy, radiology, laboratory, and supply departments.
The next phase placed an emphasis on utilizing the spaces. The Sailors treated simulated casualties with little to no warning of their arrival. The “casualties” arrived by U.S. Army Reserve HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter or Humvee ambulance 24 hours a day and simulated just about every battlefield injury.
The intent of the exercise is to create a fast-paced, combat zone experience. With the training the Sailors received, they will be capable of performing the basic and tactical operations to prepare a Navy Expeditionary Medical Facility for worldwide deployment. Military medicine is a joint effort and part of its readiness includes being able to work with the other services. Global Medic is just one part of a larger exercise involving the Army and the Navy.
More than 2,700 personnel participate annually in Global Medic at Fort McCoy, Wisc. and Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. as rotational medical training units, real-world medical support, observer coach/trainers, and exercise control support staff. Participants include joint units from all components of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. Multinational partners from have included units from Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.