SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Local first responders took part in an ultra-realistic emergency drill Monday involving an explosion with mass casualties.
The drill was staged by Strategic Operations, a part of the Stu Segall movie production company. Creators at the Kearny Mesa lot use movie techniques to make the training more realistic. They say the more real the training environment, the better the body adapts to stress.
“To get the heart rate up and to be able to work under actual stressful environments. To make the correct decisions at the correct time,” physician’s assistant trainee Kellen Gumm said.
This is the 12th year Strategic Operations has staged this type of training.
By Army Staff Sgt. Carrie A. Castillo
FORT MCCOY, Wis., May 20, 2014 – Medical Readiness and Training Command members from San Antonio employed a special piece of equipment during a military medical exercise held here from April 26 through May 16.
During the training, the military medical personnel employed the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, also known as a cut suit.
Army Master Sgt. Tinamarie Reese, a combat medic, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kristina Boettcher, a licensed practical nurse, are only two of the six personnel that were trained and certified to work with the cut suits during the exercise.
“The neat thing about these cut suits is we can ‘heal’ them,” Reese said. “This gives us the opportunity to have a 24-hour turnaround time on any one of the suits we have here. We prepare one to be worn on a live person with any type of wounds we choose, to create different scenarios. When they have completed the scenario we bring the cut suit back and begin the healing process by cleaning it and then closing the cuts with clear silicone.”
Using the suit “allows them to be able to provide invaluable training to go beyond notional training and be able to actually go through the process of real surgery,” Boettcher said.
Officials said the cut suit is used as part of the exercise scenarios given to medical personnel at either the Expeditionary Medical Facility that is being operated by the Navy, or the Combat Support Hospital that is operated by the Army.
Once the scenarios and wounds are planned, exercise participants like Reese and Boettcher get to work choosing which organs will be damaged by an improvised explosive device, a gunshot wound, or even adding live earthworms to the intestines.
“We try to make everything as real as possible. Yesterday we added live earthworms to the intestines to act as parasites,” Reese said. “A soldier, sailor or airman could very easily drink parasitic water while deployed, so this just makes it more real. I like to see the reactions of the docs when they cut into the organs and there are different materials and smells in there.”
Army Spc. Devonne Woodruff, a dental assistant, 912th Dental Company, Twinsburg, Ohio, was one of three soldiers that volunteered to wear the cut suit. Woodruff met the physical profiles needed to wear the suit.
“It was something different to do besides the other training we are getting while we’re here,” Woodruff said.
“There was one soldier I had to get out of the suit halfway through the scenario. He got claustrophobic,” Reese recalled. “This suit weighs about 35 pounds and it’s worn just like a backward flight suit because it zips up the back.”
The cut suit is designed to be worn by a male weighing about 150 to 200 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches tall, officials said. These requirements are due to the length and girth of the suit. It needs to be form-fitted to the body, with no loose material. The volunteer is also only allowed to be in the suit for up to 4 hours.
The cut suit team employs a blood-pumping system that’s attached to the patient.
“We will add the BPS for the wound on his leg,” Boettcher said, “so that the first responders will have to apply a tourniquet before he can even go into the emergency room. I have a remote that is linked to the BPS and I can let more blood flow until I believe they have the tourniquet on correctly.”
Combat medic Army Spc. Kevin Strebler, an Akron, Ohio, native with the 912th Dental Company at Twinsburg, Ohio, was the volunteer for one of the cut suits.
“I’ve done this two times before — this is my third time,” Strebler said. “It’s fun. I get to yell and scream about my injuries to play along. The mannequins don’t yell and scream, so they [the doctors] have to pretend more.”
The widely cited U.S. policy of “Pacific Rebalance” is impacting trans-Pacific relationships across a spectrum of governmental, economic and security environments.
Within the trans-Pacific security environment, Department of Defense components are working to incorporate many of the critical Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) lessons learned over the past 14 years into a framework of cooperation and understanding with new regional partners. And one set of critical lessons involves the importance of cultural and language training for forces operating on a global stage.
Some of the new efforts to support cultural and language training range from simplified language efforts to specialized training facilities to new software developments designed to accelerate regional capabilities among U.S. forces.
One fairly basic example of early trans-Pacific/Asia language efforts can be seen in “Disaster Assistance Translator for Asia,” developed by Kwikpoint on behalf of the Department of the Navy’s Center for Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture. Similar to the company’s American Red Cross Disaster Assistance Translator, the 24-panel laminated card not only features hundreds of visual images covering applications from medical to family issues, but also adds key phrases in Bengali, Burmese, Cantonese, Dzongka, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Maldivian, Mandarin, Nepalese, Sinhala, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.
At the other end of the complexity spectrum, San Diego-based Strategic Operations is configuring regional training facilities to support the same levels of “hyper-realism” that have been applied to their Iraqi and Afghan training settings over the past decade.
Kit Lavell, executive vice president at Strategic Operations, said much of the current work is being done with the Marine Corps through the Program Management Training Systems (PM TRASYS) Atmospherics contract, a multi-year contract under which the company provides “all of the things that go inside and outside MOUT [military operations on urban terrain] facilities to make them look realistic and that have the ability to be changed to reflect whatever the current theater of operations happens to be.”
Following up on a record of implementing cultural realism across a variety of U.S. training site locations, Lavell pointed to Atmospherics support of the Pacific Rebalance, offering, “In Guam, for example, we are currently making the MOUT facilities look like the Far East.”
Lavell explained that the company’s business is split between manufacturing and training.
“On the manufacturing end, in addition to our Atmospherics, we are building for the military services and other governmental agencies MOUT facilities and other types of buildings, including embassies and governmental buildings and compounds that might be found through all parts of the world,” he said.
“In addition to that, we are involved in training in a big way,” he added. “And being one of the very first companies to use actors who know the culture and the language 12 years ago, starting with the Middle East, we have provided role player support and everything that goes along with it—wardrobe, special effects and things like that—to replicate different parts of the world. We have supplied role players who know other languages of the Far East—including Tagalog, Korean and others. So we see the shift and we are prepared to provide role players and cultural experts in those parts of the world.
“We’re using all of the same hyper-realistic techniques that we have developed to support OEF and OIF,” he added. “And for OEF and OIF those were used in a very kinetic way. But we are now using those same techniques to train our men and women in uniform in those types of situations and environments where it is necessary to work with indigenous elements—either government, military or local populations.”
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Lavell declined to give his company’s revenue, but said the bulk of it is in military training. The business began as a movie studio in 1991 but shifted to military training after 9/11. Today, Strategic Operations competes for its work. “We don’t get sole-source contracts,” Lavell said. In June, the business got a deal to train British soldiers at a military base in Alberta, Canada. Strategic Operations also offers training for law enforcement agencies. Part of Strategic Operations’ business, both on- and off-site, is building sets. Its construction crews recently built a Navy destroyer interior at one of its Kearny Mesa sound stages to train sailors for scenarios like the bombing of the USS Cole. The enterprise put together a mock Middle Eastern village in the undeveloped, eastern part of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in 2004. And under the guidance of a U.S. Marine Corps general, it converted a 33,000-square-foot building at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton into an infantry simulator. Strategic Operations recently developed an actor-worn “cut suit” which bleeds when cut. The business is trying to interest its government client in using it more. The demand for such simulators may increase since animal rights advocates have objected to the military using live farm animals for medical lessons.