Under pressure 



For almost all of the first year medical students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences this was their first time in the field.

Second Lt. Joel Herness, USAF, said when he was in ROTC at the University of Washington, "We didn’t do anything like this."

Serving as a platoon leader in this part of the nine-day exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., he said, "I’ve gotten to try out a number of leadership positions. It’s a great experience and you feel the pressure."

HM2 David Baumbach, who works in the university anatomical laboratory, is monitoring Herness’ platoon as it is preparing to receive casualties who may be contaminated from a chemical weapons attack.

"Some were priors so they know how to handle themselves here, but others, it’s all new. They’re getting dirty, getting blisters. Through it all, they’re pretty motivated," he said.

Signs on the ground indicate different triage stages where the casualties will be placed: Immediate, Delayed, Minimal.

First year medical students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences learn by doing in this decontamination exercise. For many of the students, this exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., was their first experience in the field.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Troyann Ernle, a civil engineer assigned to the university, said, "I do teach decontamination, but they forgot their soldiers’ medical bags. The main point is to not contaminate the unit, the field station, have them report to higher what’s going on."

They have their MOP gear and the students are racing to get it on.

Ens. Dan Monlux said as this part of the exercise was winding down, "We need to practice like we’re really doing it. You blew in great, but then when you start takings, where were the med bags?"

"It’s hard to hear, communicate, gets foggy from the sweat and heat, seeing" Herness said. "This is all Army training, including a lot of walking and climbing."

"Make sure you’re MOPped up," Baumbach shouted as some of the students were still struggling to get into their protective gear and checking to make sure none of their skin was exposed. "Check your gloves!"

Ernle began questioning the students as the first casualties arrive. "Do you want to take them to the tent" for treatment? "No. Take them to decontamination first. Start gathering names."

Herness looks about and sees some casualties on litters near the treatment tent. The decontamination of the casualties is being done on the platoon’s perimeter. "Is anybody not doing anything?" He taps two students on the shoulders and motions them to take the casualty on the litter back to be decontaminated. "Everyone is presumed dirty," he said as the NBC officer completed her check of the first casualties.