It is the recognition of every soldier as a first responder that has helped drive the latest addition to the Army's training arena, the Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC).
"I think what you see is that the Army, with its experience in the contemporary operating environment, in theater, has once again learned the lesson that every soldier out there is first a rifleman, with all of the other skills supporting that effort," observes Lt. Col. Scott Pulford, U.S. Army product manager Ground Combat Tactical Trainers (PM GCTT) within the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI). "But right behind that, almost in parallel with being a rifleman, we're finding that every soldier will also be a first responder and have that critical lifesaving skill set necessary to be able to perform buddy aid. Whether it's that 91 Whiskey-Army medic-assigned to the squad or platoon or the guy that just happens to be riding shotgun in that Humvee, he is going to be the first one on the scene."
The MSTC initiative standardizes the medical training needed to give soldiers the skills to save wounded soldiers in combat. MSTCs teach both medics and nonmedical personnel to be a soldier first and a medic second and will be used for both combat medical advanced skills training and combat life-saver (CLS) training. The new training centers provide realistic wartime training to ensure that in the very distracting situation of war, they will be able to perform their duties both as a soldier and a medic/CLS. Some even have medical obstacle courses for soldiers where the sights and sounds of war are present and instructors place stress on the soldier in the training.
According to Debra Marsden, MSTC project director in PM GCTT, the origins of MSTC go back to 2004 and a visit made by the vice chief of staff of the Army to Fort Campbell, Ky.
"He talked to some of the soldiers there who had just returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom, a couple of them amputees," Marsden explained. "They basically attributed their lives to the training that the combat medics and some of the nonmedical personnel had received on the medical simulators. And with that, Gen. Cody put out the directive that he wanted a patient simulator at every camp, post and station," she added.
That tasking went to Army Medical Command where the MSTC concept took shape. In addition to the medical simulators, the new training centers include an array of sensory devices designed to simulate a combat environment.
The MSTC fielding plan is based on high densities of the Army medic populations as well as force projection platform and deployment rotation considerations. The program currently calls for 19 sites to be operating by the summer of 2007, including a deployable package recently approved for Afghanistan.
Of those 19, the first six priority one sites include a Kuwait suite and a deployable package that is currently in Balad. Formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held on the first MSTC site, located at Fort Lewis, Wash., in May of this year.
"Fort Lewis was the first one to stand up and they have training lanes outdoors where they have actually instituted a sound system that has some combat sounds," Marsden said. "They have burning vehicles. They have a crashed helicopter. They have an obstacle course that the soldiers have to run through, using a weighted mannequin as a patient simulator. So it's pretty much real life: first getting the wounded soldiers out of harm's way, triaging to determine the casualty levels and then treating those soldiers as well. …