Sgt. Maj. Charisse Ellison has seen a lot in her two decades as a combat medic, but she's never watched fellow medics train on a lifelike female trauma mannequin.
That changed Nov. 30 when the medics from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, got the chance to participate in an Army evaluation of a trauma simulator that's truly representative of the female body.
"She feels real. She bleeds, she gives real-time feedback to our medics, so I think it was very good for them to have that opportunity," Ellison told Military.com. "It's not common to have a female trauma mannequin."
Ellison serves as the division surgeon sergeant major for 3rd ID and signed her unit up for the evaluation when she heard about it.
The trauma mannequin is a simulator connected to a computer tablet to allow units to "control her vital signs to make the training more realistic," Ellison said.
The four-day training event was hosted by the Medical Simulation Training Center at Stewart to gather feedback on the technology, make improvements and possibly have a "viable product in the year 2022 or 2023," according to Dec. 3 Army release.
"We are assessing the prototype," Lt. Col. Rickardo Christopher, product manager of medical simulation for the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), said in the release. "Our first thing is to find out exactly the good, the bad and what needs improvement. Once we do that, our plan is to go ahead and do research and analysis."
Soldiers who participated in the event were combat life savers, combat medics and physician assistants. They performed several trauma procedures, such a needle chest decompression, in which a hollow needle is inserted into the chest to relieve pressure buildup created by a battlefield wound.
"In combat, you may get a gunshot wound or some other wound that would cause you not to breathe as normally," Ellison said. "The needle chest decompression is to remove some of the excess air or blood that may have accumulated around your lungs."
During the training, soldiers removed clothing from the mannequin's torso, felt around the breast for the entry wound and applied a chest seal, according to the release.
"Soldiers need to be aware that they could be dealing with a female soldier on the battlefield," said Bill Pike, a science and technology manager for the Army's Simulation and Training Technology Center. "When that time comes, they need to be prepared for anatomical differences."
Between 2009 and 2016, the percentage of women in the U.S. military rose from 16% to 18.3%, according to an Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness report, the release states.
In December 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reversed a U.S. military ban on women serving in direct-combat jobs, opening the door for female soldiers to join infantry and special operations units.
Ellison said she was pleased to see that female mannequin simulators may be available in combat units rather than just large combat hospitals.
"I think this is great for the Army to have, especially since we are integrating more women into infantry and armor roles ... so having a female trauma mannequin for our female soldiers is great," she said.
As realistic as the female training aid is, Ellison said her medics told program officials that it's not perfect yet.
"Of course, anything that you get, there is always some way that you can improve it to make the training more realistic," she said, describing recommended improvements "with regard to more blood ... being able to see her breathe more deeply."
"I am very excited to have a female trauma mannequin and to have our soldiers have the opportunity to provide feedback to the Army on how to improve our training so that we are more effective on the battlefield," Ellison said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.