June 9, 2016 –
DRAWSKO POMORSKIE TRAINING AREA , Poland - As U.S. and Polish tanks attempted to out-maneuver each other in a tank-on-tank exercise, a team of combat medics from the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3d Infantry Division, stood ready to receive potential casualties at their battalion aid station.
The 2-7 Infantry Battalion has been in Poland for Exercise Anakonda 2016, a Polish-led, multinational exercise that has drawn over 31,000 troops from 24 participating nations. Since opening on June 7, paratroopers have jumped from planes and engineers have bridged rivers. But in a few days, the attention will turn away from the tanks and focus on these medics, who will find their skills tested in a mass casualty simulation.
So far, the Polish exercise has provided critical training for the medics.
Spc. Rebecca Hutchins, a combat medic from Riverside, California, said “It helps keep us on our toes by being in an environment we’re not used to. We’re doing a lot of training and review of things we’ve already learned. Because being a medic, there are a lot of perishable skills.”.
Hutchins previously deployed to a combat support hospital in Kuwait, but is in Poland for the first time. “This Poland rotation is an eye-opener,” she said.
The battalion aid station’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Sgt. James Sutton, said, “We’re getting a lot of field training, especially with our newer medics. We’re getting them out on the ground, getting repetitions on evac and casualties, getting their hands dirty.”
Sutton, an Afghanistan veteran from Valdosta, Georgia, directed the medics as they rehearsed. He trained with multinational forces in Poland last year during Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“This is as close to a deployment that some of my soldiers will get. So this type of training, we can only get here,” he said.
When asked if his team would be able to receive and treat an allied Soldier, Sutton nodded, “If he came to our aid station, then we would most certainly offer him the best treatment we could just as if he was a U.S. Soldier.”
The medics train for various trauma scenarios and stay creative to challenge their techniques and procedures..
“Every injury is different, every patient responds differently to those injuries. It’s like being a detective, except I’m not trying to solve a crime, I’m trying to save someone’s life,” said Sutton.
Earlier this week a humvee hit a U.S. Soldier, fracturing his leg. The aid station’s physician assistant, 1st Lt. Joshua Pardo of Islip Terrace, New York, was attending to another Soldier with a ruptured ovarian cyst when he received word of the accident.
“I was at the hospital seeing the patient I had there, and in the process of getting her evacuated to Landstuhl I got a call,” said Pardo, who served on multiple tours in Iraq as an enlisted Soldier. He ended up having both patients airlifted together.
Day-to-day the most serious injuries that the battalion aid station has received have been rolled ankles and knee problems.
“The most common thing we’ve been treating here is allergies,” said Hutchins.