11.05.2010 Story and Photos by Lance Cpl. Reece Lodder Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Radio Battalion, treat simulated casualties during a mass casualty evacuation drill at Dillingham Air Field in Mokuleia, Hawaii, Oct. 21. The drill, part of a battalion-level field exercise held at the air field, Oct. 18 to 27, was designed to prepare the battalion for future combat operations, and sustain core competencies in combat lifesaver support and first aid, said Capt. Jonathan Cartrett, company commander, H&S Co., 3rd Radio Bn.
Crimson blood oozes from the face lacerations and open leg fracture of an unresponsive casualty. Two Marines work quickly to stop his bleeding, grabbing gauze and bandages from the contents of an individual first aid kit strewn in the field around him.
On the count of three, they grasp the field litter’s handles, posture up, and shuffle through the rough grass toward the forward operating base. They set the litter next to seven others, continuing to treat the casualty until the medical evacuation helicopter arrives.
Though the casualties were simulated, they afforded Marines and sailors from 3rd Radio Battalion experience with a mass casualty evacuation drill at Dillingham Air Field in Mokuleia, Hawaii, Oct. 21.
The drill, part of a battalion-level field exercise held at the air field, Oct. 18 to 27, was designed to prepare for future combat operations, and sustain core competencies in combat lifesaver support and first aid, said Capt. Jonathan Cartrett, company commander, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Radio Bn.
“First aid is imperative to any unit, regardless of its make or model,” said Cartrett, of Lake Worth, Fla. “We intend to do this training at every available opportunity to build our Marines’ proficiency and help prepare them for contingency operations.”
During previous training events, Marines learned and reviewed basic first aid and combat lifesaver classes. Before the surprise drill, prompted by a simulated indirect fire attack on their base, only litter-bearers had been assigned roles, said battalion surgeon Navy Lt. Lynita Mullins. This enabled the Marines to be tested on their feet, and forced them to put their training to use, said Mullins, of Melbourne, Fla.
Following the attack, the eight casualties, played by Navy corpsmen from 3rd Radio, 3rd Marine Regiment, 21st Dental Company, and Combat Logistics Battalion 3, were brought to a central location at the FOB. Several took a knee and readied their weapons, providing a security cordon. Amidst the casualties’ groans, Marines took charge in providing them aid.
Mending realistic wounds, however, wasn’t a familiar experience for most. Moulage kits attached to the casualties’ rubber wounds poured out fake blood, forcing the Marines to properly secure dressings, bandages, tourniquets, and apply pressure before the blood from the wounds would clot.
When the dust settled 20 minutes after the attack, the situation was well in hand. Despite having limited personnel and resources, Marines of 3rd Radio Bn. had successfully worked together to transport, treat, and ready the injured for a casualty evacuation, Mullins said.
They had been successful, but there was still room for improvement. Following the drill, the corpsmen who had been staged as casualties evaluated the Marines’ performances, offering suggestions and advice on how to improve a challenging, mass casualty situation.
Mullins encouraged the Marines to differentiate casualties with controlled and uncontrolled hemorrhaging, all while keeping watch over the ABCs of first aid — airway, breathing and circulation.
“Put your resources to where you can actually save lives,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Gwinn, independent duty corpsman, Battalion Aid Station, 3rd Radio Bn.
“Treat what needs immediate treatment and then get the casualties to a higher echelon of care,” the Griswold, Iowa, native said.
Besides the medical training, the field exercise afforded 3rd Radio Bn. Marines the opportunity for “green skills training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Maupai, training and operations chief, 3rd Radio Bn., of Kailua, Hawaii.
Between practicing helicopter operations with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, calls for fire and close air support, security patrols, and weapons employment, the Marines had the opportunity to step outside their military occupational specialties.
“The exercise has been a good chance for the Marines to get out of their day-to-day routine and experience a small taste of the combat side of the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Robert Monk, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear chief, 3rd Radio Bn., of Philadelphia.
Conducting operations in a tactical environment also enabled leaders to refine and streamline the battalion’s standard operating procedures. Practicing convoy operations, and tactical and field-expedient, high frequency radio communication helps prepare the battalion’s functional areas for expeditionary operations, Cartrett said.
“We’re constantly preparing detachments for exercises throughout the [United States Pacific Command] area of responsibility,” he said, “in addition to supporting the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and augmenting 1st and 2nd Radio Battalions in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
The 3rd Radio Battalion completed their nine days of field training at Dillingham Air Field Oct. 27.