FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group conducted some unique but critical training when they conducted medical evacuation operations during their annual training May 15-16, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
The 1710th teamed up with aviators and medics from the Chesterfield-based Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment for the training opportunity. The aviators supplied a UH-60 Black Hawk outfitted for medical evacuations, something many of the motor transport operators had not been around before.
“For a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve been around a bird,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas A. Tucker, commander of the 1710th. “This is a new experience for them. They’re able to learn from the experts on right from wrong, the whole process.”
The training operation was conducted in three phases. First, the 1710th’s Soldiers received instructional training on caring for a combat casualty and preparing them for transport on the Black Hawk. During that first phase Soldiers also got an overview on the helicopter from the aviators.
During the next phase, Soldiers broke into teams and practiced treating and packaging a simulated patient for transport, and were able to take turns carrying a litter to and from the idling Black Hawk. That process included all phases of a “9-line” medical evacuation, a doctrine that outlines all phases of a tactical casualty evacuation.
“Nine-line MEDEVAC is something that’s important for us to incorporate into our convoy operations. Not just the communication piece, but the readiness piece,” said Tucker. “Any kind of injury is something we want to be prepared for. It’s allowing our guys to be more comfortable when calling this in.”
Once the teams were fully familiar with the process, training moved to the third phase, which consisted of a realistic evacuation response. Two simulated casualties were designated, one ambulatory and one on a litter. The patients were given specific injuries, complete with torn clothing and simulated blood. There, the 1710th’s Soldiers field treated the wounds and called in the medical evacuation to the 1-169th. Before the Black Hawk could land, Soldiers had to prepare a landing zone, securing it and clearing debris before marking it with smoke. From there, the Soldiers carried out the evacuation the way they had just practiced.
The realistic evacuation training was beneficial for more than just the 1710th. It also gave the 1-169th’s aviators practical experience, for their pilots, crew and medics.
“This is both for our unit and for the supported unit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Leipertz, the standardization pilot for the MEDEVAC. “For our paramedics, part of their duty is to train medical process and procedures, and this gives them an opportunity to do all of those things.”
“It’s really good being able to work with these guys,” said Tucker. “It’s not just them helping us out with our training, we’re helping them out with their training as well. So it really is a beautiful cohesion.”
The training was vastly different than the normal vehicle operations the 1710th usually conducts, something that seemed to land well with the troops.
“Morale has been high. Most of the time as a transportation unit, all we do is drivers’ training, convoy operations, tactical convoy operations,” said Tucker. “Being able to get in and train with aviation on something as important as it is has definitely been good for the troops.
“Being able to do MEDEVAC training is very important to us. We’re always training for that next war. In that next war, you never know what the situation is going to be.”
It’s that importance which has Tucker already thinking to the next opportunity.
“I don’t know how common it is for units to do this training with aviation, but I can tell you this is something I want to push forward,” said Tucker. “Next year I’d like to do this training, not just with us and aviation, but be able to implement the military police for security and start bringing the whole thing together.”
Leipertz echoed the importance of the medical evacuation training for units like the 1710th.
“By having the troops get on the helicopter and actually see them in action is pretty special,” said Leipertz. “We’re taking one Soldier from their chain of command who will go on the aircraft and observe what’s happening in the back. That is a huge benefit. You put a platoon leader back there, you put a squad leader, they see how critical this training is.
“The day that you have the emergency is not the day that you want to find out that you’re not well trained in 9-line.”
During the rest of their annual training, the 1710th focused on driver training and convoy operations, and finished the rotation with a real-world convoy operation in support of the 29th Infantry Division.