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More Sweat, Less Blood

Corpsmen undergo hyper-realistic training

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicolas C. Lopez, Defense Media Activity.
16 February 2017 "Medic! Medic! Someone help: I can't feel my legs! Help me please!"

The screams of the wounded echo throughout the combat zone. Blood from severed limbs oozes and gushes. Adrenaline pumps. These are just some of the horrors independent duty corpsmen (IDCs) encounter during their Navy careers. For now, it's training, but for students going through IDC "C" school at Surface Warfare Medical Institute Detachment (SWMI) San Diego, these scenarios will quickly become a reality, and they will have seconds to make life-saving decisions.

"Being an IDC is like being at the top of your rate," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Quitin Bright, a student in the course. Throughout their careers, IDCs train in a variety of medical specialties, such as nuclear medicine, medical diagnosis and treatment, and dive medicine. They then use their expertise at their commands, such as Naval Special Warfare, on ships and in Marine units.

According to some Navy physicians, IDCs embody the phrase "jack-of-all-trades." At Strategic Operations (STRATOPS) in San Diego, a facility used by SWMI, IDC instructors and civilian staff members take the idea of training like we fight seriously. They go above and beyond to create hyper-realistic trauma training scenarios for future IDCs. To become an IDC, hospital corpsmen (HM) must volunteer and be between the rank of second class and chief.

"The reason we train like this is that at one point in an IDCs career, they will have someone's life in their hands," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Shane Picklesimer, program director for the Surface and Dive IDC Program.

IDC students arrive at the facility to find an unprepossessing group of warehouses. Behind the buildings, however, corpsmen will find a scene similar to a disaster movie set, complete with a replica MV-22 Osprey aircraft, flipped over helicopters and burned-out vehicles.

"This training is so realistic it gives me goosebumps," said Picklesimer.

STRATOPS consists of two days' worth of training, some in classrooms, but primarily in the field, using scenarios that pull heavily from instructors' own experiences in the fleet.

The first scenario is an emergency room, which is designed to teach students about prolonged care. During this station, IDC students care for one patient with one medical officer for two hours, simulating a full 24-hour time frame.
VIRIN: 170216-N-GZ277-002

"One thing I was looking forward to was prolonged care. This area in medicine would be a first for me in my career," said Bright. In fact, corpsmen don't experience this type of setting in the fleet.

The second scenario takes place aboard a replicated Navy destroyer. The ship comes under a simulated attack and the spaces fill with smoke, making it almost impossible to see beneath the red lights and darkened passageways - a new experience for many IDC students with Fleet Marine Force (FMF) backgrounds, who have never faced the constrains of a small ship's tight spaces and crowded corridors.

"We're exposing these corpsman who come from different backgrounds - showing shipboard HMs what trauma field medicine is, and moving the FMF corpsmen to a ship to show them what kind of restrictions they might face," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Joshua Beard, instructor.

During the third and final scenario, corpsmen enter what appears to be a small desert village on a simulated patrol. Then, the blast of an incoming RPG throws them into chaos, with gunfire echoing throughout and casualties screaming for help.

Here, the students must utilize a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) procedure: IDCs take wounded personnel to the replicated MV-22 Osprey while instructors yell, blank rounds fire and improvised-explosive devices detonate.

"The more sweat here is the less blood when we're deployed," said Beard. "If I can get all these kinks worked out now, I'm just providing the fleet with better product - especially for my friends that are deployed right now."

Bright said that while the training is very stressful, it's also important because he is applying what he has learned in class to real life. By immersing IDCs like Bright in a hyper-realistic environment, STRATOPS gives students a chance to make mistakes and learn from each other's experiences before lives are on the line in the fleet.

"I think this training is absolutely critical for an independent duty corpsman these days," said Picklesimer. "I'm very passionate about training my relief and very passionate about this type of training because it's so realistic and will save lives in the fleet."