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NEWS | June 11, 2024

From simulation to situation: Realistic medical training for combat

By Spc. Midori Preecs Exercise News Day

Stepping into the field hospital, patient demands and medics’ orders meld together, creating a cacophony of urgent noise. The smell of sweat permeates the air, a testament to the constant running around of medics attending to each new arrival. As you look across the room, you see an ever-growing number of injuries, a grim indication of the brutality outside. The shuffling of uniforms and the grunts of Soldiers carrying litters behind you add to the chaotic atmosphere, while the pervasive smell of fear hangs heavy in the air. Each breath you take is filled with the subtle undertone of war. Amid the chaos, you have to remember this is simply a training exercise and not reality.

“The training and experiences give you deeper insight to our mission. You are taught what to do, sometimes without the why, yet you do it; it gives the secondary, tertiary reason why we move and act in the ways we do,” said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. James Edwards, a combat medic with the 352nd Field Hospital.

This is where your preparation meets purpose, transforming the chaos into a structured, manageable situation. Every movement, every decision, every breath is a step towards becoming the calm within the storm, readying you for the moment when the simulation becomes reality.

“This training is paramount for unit cohesion, as well as providing the junior Soldiers with hands-on training experience in a fast-paced environment, the amount of casualties, and the variety of injuries,” said Edwards.

He emphasizes the importance of Soldiers being able to experience difficult scenarios while running on adrenaline and surrounded by disarray.

Edwards said, “When the casualties arrive here, they go through a triage tent where they are quickly evaluated to determine which movement needs to be made and whether or not the patient can be saved.”

The Army creates ways to fully execute what the real-world scenarios look like, incorporating a process called moulage, French for molding, which is the art of using special effects makeup and high effects simulators to implement realism into the training environment.

“Moulage is used to help desensitize the Soldiers working in the field hospitals, so they can build a tolerance in seeing the intense, real injuries and decrease the probability of being overwhelmed,” said Lt. Col. Crystal Tandy, a perioperative nurse from the Medical Readiness Training Command and officer in charge of the moulage operation. This technique gives Soldiers who are applying the moulage an area to be creative in the wide range of simulated injury scenarios.

Tandy said, “Most of the Soldiers at the moulage site are not medics, so this is all new to them. They get to create these realistic injuries using their imaginations and challenge the medics to think critically and quickly when receiving these simulated casualties.”

This allows Soldiers and medical personnel to practice responding to various injuries in a controlled yet realistic environment.

“Even though it’s not the real world, it could happen, and it creates the preparedness we need and makes us a better Army,” said Tandy.