A foldout table sat crooked in a field tent, cluttered with playing cards and flanked by knocked-over metal chairs. A single voice filled the empty tent, crackling over a lonely two-way radio.
Outside, U.S. and Canadian soldiers sprinted toward a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that’ waiting to take them to the site of a medical evacuation training exercise to be conducted as part of the Maple Resolve 17 training exercise held here May 16.
“We have quite a few new medics in my unit,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Tiege Trimm, instructor pilot with the 1-169th Aviator Regiment, part of the Maryland National Guard. “Our last deployment was in 2012 to the Helmand province, Afghanistan, … during the height of the surge. We were extremely busy, saw tons and tons of trauma, and the medics we had with us did a phenomenal job. Unfortunately, … those soldiers have moved on. We have one medic left — our first sergeant — who was in Afghanistan.”
During Maple Resolve 17, Trimm and other members of the 1-169 have the chance to raise the unit’s skill to its post-deployment readiness levels through real-world medevac missions and training exercises, both alongside Canadian forces.
‘We’re Glad to Have This Opportunity’
“We’re glad to have this opportunity,” said Trimm, a native of Savannah, Georgia. “It’s rare that we can … get our whole battalion together and push missions. It’s invaluable training. We’re surely on the hook in the near future to provide medevac services overseas, and I really want this training opportunity to benefit our medics and make sure they’ve seen some first-hand experience before they go overseas.
He added, “They do see some trauma in a hospital setting, but it’s different in a field setting, and it’s different when it’s one of your own. We try to train them so they’ll be ready for that when it does happen so they’ll be able to make a difference for that patient.”
More than 650 U.S. soldiers are supporting Maple Resolve 17, the Canadian army’s premiere brigade-level validation exercise running May 14-29 here. As part of the exercise, the U.S. Army is providing a wide array of combat and support elements. These include sustainment, psychological operations, public affairs, aviation and medical units.
Members of the 1-169 take advantage of training in an allied nation by integrating Canadian medics into their medevac teams.
“The protocols are slightly different, … but when it comes down to patient care, medicine is medicine,” said Canadian Master Cpl. Alexandre Pret-Lascard, a forward aeromedevac specialist attached to the 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment. “By getting to work together, we’ll get to see how each other functions … and the next time we can isolate specific jobs for each other so that way it works in a smooth pattern, and we’ll get a better result.”
Paired with the 2 RCR, the 1-169 runs three medevac helicopter teams: the one-up crew, which is the first one to be sent up if there is a real-time casualty; the second-up crew, which replaces the one-up crew when they lift off; and the training crew, which has one Canadian medic and one American flight medic in training.
“We’re going to work together to provide the best care possible for the casualty,” said Pret-Lascard, who has been in medicine for 10 years in both the civilian and military sectors. “If we require some skill that’s outside the scope of our training, the American flight medics will perform that procedure.”
The training team, however, can be diverted to take real medevac calls, depending on how far it takes to get to the site, as the training flight still has a fully qualified crew.
“If we’re conducting realistic training, there is very little difference between a medevac [exercise] and a real nine-line medevac,” said Trimm, a former Marine Corps infantryman for nine years and a National Guard infantryman for five more. “When I was a troop on the ground, I’d want that. If I’m putting myself in harm’s way, I want to know somebody has got my back, and we’ve got their back. In the end, it’s all about support for ground forces, and we want to do the best job we can.”