Partnerships strengthened during medical exchange

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group

Delivering medical academics in the classroom and hands-on training in the field, the 353rd Special Operations Group medical team proactively engaged with their Australian military counterparts throughout Talisman Saber 2017, a biennial military exercise from June 23 to July 25, 2017, throughout various locations in Australia. 


“Our partners absolutely loved the Tactical Casualty Combat Care (TCCC) course, which involved a few hours of didactics and lectures followed by hands-on training in the field, which focused on care under fire, as well as tactical field care,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Garcia, 353rd Special Operations Group flight surgeon. “We had very positive feedback for this course, particularly from the doctors who don’t typically perform care in the field. They benefited by seeing the types of treatments provided to patients before they come through the hospital doors.”


The group was comprised of Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force medical personnel from varying levels to include paramedics, nurses, doctors and even military members who wanted to strengthen their skills in care under fire. 


“The TCCC course was really good and similar to how we train our soldiers and first aiders in the Australian Army,” said Australian Army Lieutenant Madeline Ferguson-O’Dea, 1st Corps Health Battalion nursing officer. “I as a nurse learned some new ways to access the patients and apply treatments. We all shared some laughs, sweated a bit and everybody from our first aiders to our medical nurses got something out of the training.”


TCCC was put into action during the full spectrum mass casualty scenario, which involved initial response by U.S. Air Force 320th Special Tactics Squadron pararescuemen and Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medics, as well as the higher echelons of Australian military medical care. 


“Our mass casualty event flexed the true medical plan we had in place for this exercise,” said Garcia. “Following the initial response by our medical personnel, the Australians provided that higher level of care with the ambulatory response and transport to their local medical facility on Camp Rocky. The doctors and nurses further triaged patients and performed treatment prior to the final transfer to hospitals in the community.”


Australian medical personnel applied the knowledge learned during the TCCC course to understand why particular treatments were performed in the field, thereby enhancing the speed and effectiveness of their care during the mass casualty scenario. 


“For us to undertake a training opportunity established by the Americans and extend it to support a full spectrum mass casualty scenario here at the Role 2 has been truly beneficial,” said Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Nicole dos Santos, No. 1 Expeditionary Health Squadron Commanding Officer. “Particularly in the clinical handover of a patient, understanding the slightly different terms and processes used by the Americans makes it a lot safer for the patient as we move them through the echelons of care. We have worked with Americans overseas for many years, and the opportunity to work with their medical teams here during Talisman Saber has enhanced this partnership.”


The U.S. and Australian militaries have fought alongside each other in every major conflict over the past century and benefit greatly from exchanges which increase interoperability and partnership capacity. 


“Medicine, just like technology is a very rapidly evolving beast that we have been able to work with our partners on during this exercise,” said Garcia. “It has been beneficial to learn from their experiences, as well as share updates from clinical trials and new studies that we’re doing in the United States. To work hand-in-hand and do that medical knowledge sharing is a really great partnership building opportunity that I’d like to see done every exercise.”


The U.S.-Australian alliance remains a model in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. 


“We don’t always get the opportunity to work with coalition partners, where their medical is just as advanced and in some aspects more advanced than what ours would be in the field just like this,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Chilson, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Operational Medical Support independent duty medical technician. “We’ve never met these people, we’re from different countries, grown-up with different medicines, and here we are passing patients through from point of injury to even surgery. It’s been amazing to see this level of interoperability with our Australian partners.”