CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. -- When you see it, what reaction will you have? Will you freeze? Will you snap into action? Will you faint? I’m talking about blood, the substance of life which inevitably flows with any major injury. When it happens for real, will the simulated injuries you practiced on in training be enough preparation? Preparedness has always been a foundation of the National Guard, which means realistic training is a must, including simulated injuries.
Training this year has taken a turn for the realistic, as part of eXportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, exercises taking place here on Tactical Training Base Kelley. Soldiers are faced with increasingly realistic depictions of war, complete with simulated wounds that need treatment.
As much as possible injuries portrayed in training must look as gruesome and horrifying as in combat. No one knows that better than the casualty. Even in training the wounded go through entirely too much. In this case, two or more hours of application time. Sitting in a chair, being subjected to glues and injury-based prosthetics, Pfc. Abner Coelho, a member of the 182nd Area Support Medical Company, allowed himself to be the simulated victim of a vehicle borne improvised explosive devise. After hours of the application of prosthetic wounds realistic enough to pass as genuine, Coelho headed out into the field.
In the field, Coelho was discovered by Soldiers training on one of the lanes used during XCTC. They responded with combat lifesaver techniques to stabilize him and treat wounds consisting of an amputated arm, multiple broken bones and shrapnel in one eye. The CLS techniques allowed Coelho to “survive” long enough to be safely evacuated from the area via helicopter and transported back to TTB Kelley, where he was tended to by another group of Soldiers also from the 182nd. The 182nd is participating in XCTC during their annual training.
After Coelho’s wounds were stabilized enough for transport, he was moved to a waiting ambulance and taken to the triage center where more in-depth care was available. Once inside, his wounds were fully assessed by another team of medics and proper care was rendered to each injury based on severity.
“It definitely creates pressure on the Soldiers,” said Sgt. David Busch, 23, from Dorchester, a member of the 182nd. “It’s very hard to mimic the pressure [Soldiers experience] overseas.” The moulage (French for prosthetics and makeup) and simulated blood really make an impact on the Soldiers, highlighting the gravity of a job that must be done, continued Busch.
With almost 2,000 Soldiers participating and roughly 300 more in support, XCTC is the largest military pre-mobilization on Camp Edwards since World War II. It provides highly effective, very realistic, in-depth training. The training is a valuable tool for Soldiers preparing for deployment. XCTC allows units to work together in a military setting that better prepares for combat overseas.
“While we’re out here, we’re providing medical support for everyone participating in the XCTC,” said 2nd Lt. Amanda R. Ponn, 23, a treatment platoon leader and acting commander of the 182nd. “This is a great training opportunity for our medics to work with a little bit of everyone out here.”