STANFORD TRAINING AREA, England – British Army Joint Tactical Air Controllers with the 19 Regiment Royal Artillery from Tidworth, Wiltshire, and 3 Battallion The Rifles, from Edinburgh, Scotland, learned about U.S. methods for treating combat injuries March 5 and 6, 2013, when U.S. Air Force personnel from the 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron Medical Element conducted combat medical refresher training at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.
The training enabled the U.S. and U.K. participants to share medical knowledge and information relating to combat injuries and treatment practices in a field environment, said Maj. Michael Hall, 352nd SOSS Medical Element chief of medical plans.
“We learned much from each other and found similarities in knowledge and information, but with some nuances in technique and equipment,” Hall said. “It’s the knowledge of these nuances that makes both parties better prepared to face injuries on the battlefield.”
Working in conjunction with a U.K. exercise conducted at STANTA, Team Mildenhall members shared their expertise and medical knowledge, passing on many techniques to the British soldiers, including different positions for placing a tourniquet, and performing a needle decompression on a collapsed lung.
The 352nd SOSS Medical Element supports special operations forces in a medical capacity. They also provide medical coverage for the crew going out on missions.
“That’s our main ‘bread-and-butter,’ for the (352nd) SOG,” Hall said. “We also perform casualty evacuations, moving casualties from what could be the point of injury to hospital care, which is usually at a forward operating base or staging base where we have more medical assets.”
These advanced medical assets are used to then stabilize and treat patients, preparing them for evacuation to safer areas.
“Our typical team is a special operations forces medical element; it’s a three-person team consisting of a flight surgeon and two independent duty medical technicians,” Hall explained. “The IDMTs (enlisted medics) are more of a ‘super-medic,’ because they have many certifications that your typical paramedic may not have.”
Hall said because of the medical element, they like to train with U.K. special forces.
“We’re sharing our knowledge with them in the hopes that when we’re downrange together, we each have a knowledge and appreciation of the other’s skills and training,” the San Antonio native said. “One of the biggest things out in the field is that we don’t know if we’re going to be saving the life of a U.K., U.S., or other partner-nation soldier. At the same time, our forces don’t know if they’re going to have a U.S. or U.K. medic, or other partner-nation medic saving their lives – that’s why it’s important that we get out and get to know our partner nations and their medical capabilities and skills.”
Hall emphasized how joint training is a force multiplier, establishing knowledge and trust between forces achieving a common goal.
During this training event, U.S. medics put the JTACs in different field scenarios, including having them under fire and coming across casualties. The medics then split into teams, each working together to provide immediate medical attention to those injured, firstly in the form of a mannequin, followed by the 352nd SOSS members role-playing as patients.
The British Army JTACs said they also appreciated the chance to learn from their American counterparts.
“The way things are going in Afghanistan has really identified the need to work within coalition forces,” said Lt. Rob Fidler, 19 Regiment RA officer-in-command. “As JTACs, we work with different nations and for us this is a nice little ‘cherry on the top’ for our week’s training (at STANTA), and I think this is the way it’s going to go in the future.
“(Regarding our work method) – we get a casualty, we react, treat and move them off – the way (Americans) do it is very similar to how we do it,” the British officer from Aberdeen, Scotland, said. “We’ve just come back from Afghanistan, but we’re building up our training again as we move to the future; the way it’s going to work is with other nations, so it seemed (wise) to bring these guys in.”
Fidler said during the exercise at STANTA, he and his soldiers had been working with Fast Air and Apache helicopters.
“Working with Apaches is our core trade, but it’s always good to mix it up,” the JTAC said. “This week we’ve also been working with Typhoons and Tornados, all British aircraft, though from time-to-time we work with U.S. F-15s and F-16s.”
The officer-in-command emphasized how the two nations working alongside each other can only be a win-win situation.
“Our training requirement is ever-ongoing and I see this as building up relationships and working with other nations,” Fidler said. “The Americans are a massive resource, so (it’s good) to tap into that, and also they’re good fun. They want to work with the host nation and we want them to work with us.”
“Camaraderie between forces is also a benefit of learning from each other as we did this week,” the major said. “In the end, it’s all about saving lives.”