FORT McCOY, Wis. –
“Help! Help us!”
Medics in the field hospital run outside to respond to the Soldier holding her military working dog who fall out of the Humvee. The canine is bleeding out from a missing limb while the handler screams for someone to save her companion's life. The injured canine is placed on a litter and brought inside the field hospital with the handler following close behind.
The handler clutches the controller for the animatronic canine as she operates the training aid as part of a scenario at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
Sgt. 1st Class Kristina Boettcher, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Effects and Enablers (E&E) for Global Medic led by the 78th Training Division as part of Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX), is an experienced actor for training scenarios, including being a canine handler.
The animatronic canine in question, nicknamed “Diesel,” is used to expose Soldiers to canine medical care. The E&E uses modern technology like “Diesel” to create more effective and realistic training for U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers at the E&E prepare for many medical training events, including mass causality scenarios, medical evacuations and ambulance arrivals.
The mass causality event encompassed live role players with prosthetic wounds and faux blood as well as manikins, synthentic human figures used for medical or scientific training purposes, with missing limbs, burns and head injuries. New manikins are accompanied by a controller who operates the manikins' bleeding, pulse and movements.
“When I was going through [combat medic] school, we never had this opportunity,” Boettcher explains. “The leaps and bounds that the Army has made in providing these type of products is astronomical and I only hope they continue further down the simulation path.”
Boettcher, from the 7306th Medical Exercise Support Battalion, role plays as Diesel's handler for the training exercises. A key part of caring for an injured military working dog is not separating the canine from it's handler.
“I really do enjoy [role playing with] the dog because when you're the handler, you have the ability to emotionally connect with the dog,” Boettcher says. “Even though it's a robot, you can emotionally connect.”
Michael Roth, simulations technician and instructor at regional training site-medical, explains how the improved technology changes the way Soldiers react to their manikins.
“As simple as it sounds, making a sound changes the dynamic completely in the hospital,” Roth said. “That really makes people feel that this isn't just a piece of plastic, even though it really is.”
Diesel's ability to pant, bark, growl and whine gives Soldiers the most realistic training, especially for those who are not used to seeing a canine in the hospital. Diesel can also have various injuries including a gunshot wound and missing limb.
The human manikins are also becoming more versatile with interchangeable legs, wounds, and internal injuries. Versatility ensures that Soldiers do not get used to certain injuries and are always on their toes, according to Boettcher.
Global Medic is part of the Army Reserve Medical Command's larger mission to provide trained, equipped and combat ready units and medical personnel which are ready now to support the total force on the battlefields of today and tomorrow.
“We want the training to be as realistic as possible because it does engage the training audience,” Boettcher said. “We do a lot of wound coaching here. We explain to the live role players if you have a certain type of injury how would you react or how would you present your illnesses even though they're not real.”
The scenario on Aug. 14, 2021, is a C130 crashed after being hit with a rocket propelled grenade. Boettcher prepared live role players and Multiple Amputation Trauma Trainer (MATTs) at Young Army Air Strip and awaited the arrival of medical evacuation from Blackhawk helicopters and ambulances.
“We try to progress it to the point where they treat their Soldiers like the Soldiers and not like just some manikin,” Roth said. “We don't want to make it easy for the [medics] to do their job because in real life they're job isn't easy.”