U.S. Marines are using the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in a new way by demonstrating an emerging ability to quickly bring life-rescuing, resuscitative emergency medical care to stranded injured patients in a mock-disaster drill --- all as part of a special Fleet Week training exercise Oct. 6 at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, San Francisco.
“The point of this exercise is for us to demonstrate what we can do to help civilians in the event of disaster. This is resuscitative care air transport wherein we secure an advanced air way, get blood started and administer the initial care at the point of injury,” Lt. Cmdr. Brian Dimmer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit surgeon, emergency medicine doctor, told Military.com.
The Fleet Week exercise was also aimed at solidifying connectivity between military humanitarian relief experts and their many counterparts such as U.S. Coast Guard personnel, Homeland Security Department officials, emergency workers, local law enforcement and other first-responders.
“Civilian and military personnel speak different languages and have different protocols and there are different rules of engagement about bringing the military in to do disaster response,” Lewis Loeven, executive director of the San Francisco Fleet Week Association, told Military.com in an interview.
Flying aboard an MV-22 Osprey, an aircraft typically used for troop and cargo transport, a group of specially-trained Marine Corps medical teams descended upon a mock-disaster site in order to bring man-portable technology and emergency medicine to injured personnel.
“This drill is in a mock-catastrophic environment demonstrating how we would bring in supplies when the bridges are out, when the roads are out when the ports are out. In the event of disaster, the fastest way to service the Bay Area for medical services may come from the air. We have Ospreys coming in to demonstrate this,” Loeven added.
As a result, a key purpose of the training exercise was to better prepare forward, fast-moving medical units to save lives more quickly in challenged or so-called “austere” environments.
“For the longest time the concept of the ‘golden hour’ has been to get the patient to a higher level of resuscitation within one hour. The first care a patient receives is usually on the ground in a tent with two emergency medicine doctors and a bunch of trauma nurses. What we are doing is taking that concept and make it smaller and making it man-portable,” Dimmer explained.
During the simulated scenario, Dimmer and other Corps medical experts performed an initial medical assessment in the mock-scenario, resulting in the administering of oxygen, IVs and a tourniquet to stop what appeared to be a large arterial bleed, Dimmer explained.
“This is something that the Navy and Marine Corps has not done up until this point. We’re prepared for any patient and any situation. We’re ready for disaster relief and anything that is going on inside a city,” he added.
Landing at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station to take care of and transport patients was the first step in the integrated exercise which also included setting up a Shock-Trauma platoon and Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite, or FRSS, at San Francisco General Hospital, Dimmer added.
“In a matter of minutes we can take a combat aircraft and use the space that is available to take our equipment on board and use it as an opportunity for medical care,” Dimmer said.
Loeven explained that military-civilian cooperation and synergy can really pay off in the event of disaster, given their shared expertise with crisis response.
“There is no greater humanitarian assistance force in the world than the United States military. You can see that most recently in the Philippines,” Loeven said.
Along these lines, some of the first U.S. disaster-relief responders following the 2011 Japanese Tsunami were members of the U.S. military who had received special urban search and rescue training alongside civilian disaster professionals in San Francisco, Loeven said.