MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
BOOM! Ears ring and the ground violently shakes as dust, smoke, rubble and debris fill the air. After the dust begins to settle, a burning smell arises along with cries for help.
This is the scenario a class of firefighters as well as Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active-duty Airmen and firefighters faced at the end of their Emergency Medical Technician refresher course, Oct. 31 through Nov. 4.
“For most medics working in the hospital, [emergency medicine] is not what we do every day,” said Master Sgt. Jason Bradley, 23d Medical Operations Squadron family health flight chief. “This class and the skills we get to practice are really important because they help us save lives.”
The Air Force partners with an outside organization to develop protocols and a curriculum to refresh EMT’s knowledge, which is constantly evolving.
“It’s very important to keep your knowledge and your skills up-to-date with anything medical because it’s a job that you practice, and you’re never an expert at it,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Waters, 23d MDOS medical technician. “Being informed about new medications, new treatments and easier ways to perform and do your job to save lives every day.”
The week long training must be completed every two years, with student’s experience levels ranging from entry level to instructor.
“With this being a refresher course, this isn’t the first time they’ve seen this,” said Bradley. “For some people, this is their tenth or twelfth time [through the course]. You can learn from the people in the class as they share their experiences and some of the things they have done. Some of those stories stay with you.”
Hearing their peers’ stories and receiving advice from others help put their skillset back in perspective.
“The stories we tell each other about experiences we’ve had brings things back to life for most people,” said Waters. “In our career field, you learn the most from real-life experiences. So, if you share those experiences with others, they can apply that later in their careers or when they’re put into a similar situation.”
Sharing stories, tips and tricks learned over the years, also fosters camaraderie, which Staff Sgt. Dwinese Aird, 74th Fighter Squadron independent duty medical technician, said is critical to their success.
“Teamwork is very important,” Aird added. “You can’t give CPR, push medications and treat wounds [at the same time]. You’re relying on everyone else to know what they’re doing so you can focus on treating bigger problems, like getting the patient out of there and prolonging their life.”
In addition to team-building exercises and participating in lectures on topics like assessing patients, traumas and cardiac emergencies. The curriculum incorporated newer techniques and skills that have been adapted by the medical community, but aren’t often used.
“[Emergency medicine] is the part of our job that we train the most for, but do the least of,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Hess, 23d MDOS aerospace medical technician. “The hands-on exercises are realistic because you have to trust that your partner is going to make the right decision at the right time, but you can’t be afraid to tell them they’re doing something wrong.
“If we see someone’s not doing something right, we say something and help them fix it,” Hess added. “Having varying ranks in the class helps too, because the first time I did this, I was an A1C. I was scared to talk to everybody. Now we incorporate the lower ranks a lot more so that they’re less afraid to say something to people that outrank them.”
Their ability to work and communicate as a team was tested on the last day of the exercise when the medics took a trip to the Military Operations in Urban Terrain village.
Using all the skills they’ve refreshed in the course, the medics were tasked to recover and treat four simulated casualties, load them onto gurneys and into helicopters.
“The exercise is more like real life,” said Aird. “Doing the exercise at the end of the week lets you see [your capabilities] and what you can improve on. You get to build those teamwork skills and learn from each other so you all make sure you do everything you can to make the outcome the best it can be.”
There is never a guarantee that medics will be able to save a patient’s life, but practicing lifesaving skills and having the chance to utilize them in a controlled but realistic environment can give medics an upper hand.
“Not every base has the ability to do these kinds of hands on exercises,” said Bradley. “It’s really neat and I’ve gotten to practice and do things at Moody that I haven’t done at other bases.”