Monday, April 27, 2009

Good to Go Advanced Medic Training

I think today was the apex of our training here at Ft Riley with the exception of the live fire weapons training.

Saturday we spent in classes and practical exercises on advanced medical care in the field. We reviewed all of the currently used and old or NATO medical dressings and interventional kits. The Army has some computerized manikins for training use. The highlight of the training was placing IV's in each other in dark.(not completely, but definitely not enough light to actually see a vein)

The trauma validation came first thing this morning. We were individually brought in with a medical kit and presented with a casualty to treat in the dark with smoke and loudspeakers blaring combat audio. A headlamp was basically required to get anything done. It is a pretty adventurous list of things that had to be accomplished. Required interventions included:

1 Tourniquets place tight enough to stop gushing femoral arteries to amputated leg.
2. Placement of a second tourniquet to the other leg.
3. Place a Nasopharngeal Airway.
4. Place a seal over a sucking chest wound with tape on all 4 sides.
5. Needle decompression of tension pneumothorax.
6. Placement of an IV in noninjured arm. (I almost forgot to remove the tourniquet to the arm).
7. Placement of a Combi Tube to secure the airway.
8. Placement of a FastOne IntraOsseous for vascular access to provide Hextend after the IV gets "pulled out" (sterile swipe counted off and made you a NoGo)
9. Perform a Cricothyroidotomy. ( Once again sterility counted)

This is a lot to do in 15 min by yourself, especially in the dark with all manner of sound distractions. A few of our team had to repeat the process until they got it done. Picture #1 the trauma validation, #2 the aftermath.

This was only the warm up though. We were split into 8 man teams and assigned a leader, radio operator and medic. We were briefed that we would need to extract casulties under fire, remove them to a safe area, then treat to stabilize, 9 line MEDEVAC request and then transport them to the awaiting helicopters. Both our team and the "enemy' were armed with paintball guns. A large arty simulator flash bang started the exercise. We cleared 3 barricades and made it to the HMMWV in good order, but the extraction was tough. I was inside the vehicle working to get the patients out. Each dummy weighed 185 lbs and then had the stardard body armor adding up tot 40 more pounds. I was pretty exhaused by the time I pushed the last casualty out of the HHMWV. I would probably still be stuck in there if a teamate had not held the armored door open for me.( the HMMWV was tilted).

Thankfully the rest of the team had applied tourniquets to the casualties by the time I got out of the vehicle. We had two litters, so the last mud covered wet casualty we moved with a modified drag. We had to transport through a tunnel and over a wall. The whole time smoke and flashbangs were going off. The training cadre also got close and personal with many unhelpful comments - just to add to the confusion.

Then we moved inside to repeat our tramua validation as a team for two of the casualties. Our Radioman gave the MEDVAC request. We had to quickly transport to the heli site(simulated) and we did a hot wash after action. The funniest part was watching the videos of all 3 teams and seeing what worked and what did not.

It was well put together training which may well save many lives.

My new Army trousers, however, are shredded and purple.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Combat Lifesaver

Sorry no cool pictures this post.

We spent the last two days going through the mandatory Combat Lifesaver Course. Most units designate a Combat LifeSaver (CSL) per fire team or squad. Everyone on an embedded training team, however, must successfully complete this training.

We had a fair amount of class/powerpoint, with opportunity for hands on training. We did do IV's on each other in class. There were a few live demostrations done with volunteers. After the first group of volunteers had Naso-Pharyngeal Airways shoved all the way up there noses the volunteerism dropped drastically. We still have to complete the simulated combat portion, but that will be later in the training. The training was good for all personnel going over tourniquets, dressings, IV's and other immediate actions to include the procedures for calling a MEDEVAC of casualties. Since our Navy teams are all providers or medically related, it was review for the most part. Our few soldiers who are part of our Navy team made it clear that if someone is injured they are going to still just shout "MEDIC"!

I did get a cool CSL bag. Now I just need to figure out where to fit that along with the other 4 seabags full of stuff the Army has provided.

A special greetings to my Brother Rats of VMI class of 1989 who are enjoying our 20 year reunion. I wish I was with you now, BR's. I will, however, uphold VMI tradition as we go to our Saturday classes here at Camp Funston.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HMMWV Training

Yesterday was a fun day. We were very briefly introduced on the basics of driving an up Armored HMMWV and then were off to drive the trails. The 1151 Up Armored HMMWV (UAH) is very different than the smaller and lighter 998 cousins I knew 20 years ago. It is very heavy, weighing almost 6 tons dry and empty. The armor is very thick and weighs a lot. The turret is pretty robust as well. The ride is smooth, much like a 1960's Cadillac or Oldsmobile. Astonishingly this is the first HMMWV I have ever been in that has--- Air Conditioning!! times have certainly changed.

My classmates in the vehicle were pretty tame in their driving compared to me. I even got the dubious honor of throwing the highest plume of water after hitting the creek at a high rate of speed. My bunkmate was in the turret at the time, and was not as amused since he recieved a free rinsing.

The fire wardens were burning dry grass on the base as well, which gave an eery feeling. It also made our night drive more challenging. The vehicle in front of us blew a flat, but with the aluminum run flat within the tire it made it back to the motor pool fine.

Back at the motor pool we learned how to tow, fix a flat and check all fluid levels, and jump off a HMMWV with specialized battery cables.

The big fun part was the HEAT trainer. It is basically a rollover trainer to practice escape from a UAH that has tipped over. Evidently this is a common occurance with the top heavy turret. We got seat belted in and then the "ride" spun us around, much slower than any amusement ride. The procedure is to yell "rollover", but in truth I was laughing so hard I think I forgot. No injuries with my crew, but you could here rifles banging around as others were tipped with the occasional exclamation of "Ouch!". Hold on to those weapons. Orienting yourself, getting the seatbelt undone and actually opening the armored door upside down were the challenging parts.

The night drive was fun as well. The NVG's (night vision goggles)have progressed as well. Eventually they do get a little heavy on the neck and head after a few hours. It is described as driving while looking through a straw, although in actuality it is more like looking through the cardboard of a toilet paper roll than a straw. Our drives in blackout with the NVG's went very well. No accidents, no off road adventures. All in all good training that all who are going downrange should experience.

The day before was spent on IED awareness and a practical exercise in sweeping for IED's around vehicles.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Afghan Cultural Meal

Last night (shab gushashta) we had a group afhgan cultural meal. The afghans who work with our training command put together a meal from fixings found in the chow hall. The purpose of the meal was to educate us on how to eat afghan style, with our fingers while seated on the floor. My son would not require any special instruction to accomplish this, but I had to practice. The curry chicken and rice was just the right blend of spices. The salate had a nice amount of cilantro, tomatoes, onions and greens. We were shown the proper method is to ball up and load the rice onto your index, middle and ring fingers in a trough, then use your thumb to piston the rice into your mouth. Luckily they did not count off for being messy.

I am going to take additional Dari classes at night next week.

9:00 pm- no ba-ja shab
children- tefelhaa
chaap - left
raast - right
ru buru - straight ahead
zood zood or zoodsho - quickly

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The best Force Protection for an Advisor

What is the best F0rce Protection tool for those of us who are going to Afghanistan as Military Advisors?

A. 9mm pistol

B. 50 caliber machinegun

C. Body Armor with ESAPI plates

D. Chai

The correct answer is D. According to our instructors, the best Force Protection measure for those of us who may be out and about to interact with our Afghan counterparts is a good rapport with the Afghans. Drink some chai (tea) engage in some lengthy conversations of small talk extensively first and foremost. Serious business is only addressed later at subsequent meetings. This is stressed so much that we practice meetings with real afghans with interpreters present. Our teams participants tonight did well, no soles of feet showing, no rambling, no thumbs up. It went very well. This is the first installment of these meetings and it was quite entertaining. I can only hope that the real deal goes as well.

The picture is of the Actor Commander Ibrahim asking if our team has been able to contact our families since our 'arrival' to his country.

But don't get me wrong, I intend to be proficient in all of the above prior to leaving Ft Riley.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cultural and Language training

This week we are in classroom training. Language training in Dari, Cultural training, Introduction to Islam, readings on the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan constitution and so forth. We have military instructors for about half of the material and the other half taught by contractors (ie former operators) and Afghanis, most of which served as Interpreters with our forces for the last several years. The goal is to allow us to interact favorably with our Afghan counterparts. We are to work by, with and through our counterparts, not just take control as is our natural inclination.

Reading list: the Army has provided some free books. Currently I am working on "Afghanistan A Military History" by Stephen Tanner, and "The Bear went over the Mountain" edited by Lester Grau.

You have to love a language where the number system starts off with yak, doo!

Words of the day
Tashakor- thank you
Sar Daard- headache

Friday, April 10, 2009

Movement to Camp Funston

Yesterday we drew our assigned personal weapons. The 9mm pistol has not changed much, but the M-4 is new to me. I always envisioned the M-4 carbine as cool gear that the special operations folks used. Not these days. Even a humble physician has this as his weapon. It has all the bells whistles, scopes, laser attachements, none of which I know how to work. Of course I do take solace that there are only a few of us left who can use iron sights. Each person also has a pair of Night vision goggles. Years ago you only got one substandard pair per platoon.

Our movement onto Funston from Custer Hill proves once again and "Cluster" can be a verb. Our Navy teams are spread over 6 different 40 man common rooms. My bunkmate and I are the only two Navy in a field of our sky blue Air Force brethren.

Camp Funston is a large level area with a conglomeration of barracks, prefab buildings and an extensive industrial area on Ft Riley. There is a monument nearby for the 50,000 doughboys who trained here for WWI. Almost 90 years later is our home for the next two months as we learn the basics of being military advisors

Our first classes today were cultural awareness, relationships with your Afghan counterpart and Interpreter. I will need to work extensively on my Dari.
The picture is a view from the second deck barracks common area with the aforementioned monument in the distance. We will drive and use the HMMVS for training.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Training Day 1 GEAR

Started our processing at Ft Riley. A few benign briefs and then issue of gear, including reciept of my uniforms from Port Hueneme. It is a truly amazing amount of gear and we still have a seabag or two to draw still. We will leave the barracks and move to the FOB (forward operating base) later this week. We will be going through 60 days of in depth training before we are done here.

Weather report light flurries of snow yesterday. Cool and windy but clear today.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Training Day Zero

My fellow FP and I took 3 flights to arrive at Fort Riley late last night. For the first flight we were amazingly assigned to First Class. I attribute this to this to the fact that there were no other seats available on the plane by the time that our arrangments were made. It was nice. The last government flight I rode in first class was in 1990. The second two flights were in a small puddle-jumper prop plane with 45 mph cross winds during take off and landing. Not for the faint of heart.
Now we are inprocessing at Fort Riley. It looks like the remainder of our team is already here. We are currently in barracks, but will move to the FOB by the end of the week to start our training cycle, which may take about 60 days.
Still no definitive word on my assignment place in country after training.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Another beautiful day in California. It is really hard to believe how much down time there is at NMPS. It actually may be a full work day for Reservists who are mobilizing, but our Active duty IA group is not gainfully employed. For those active duty with the means, I would recommend bringing the family.
So far I have spent between 1 and 4 hours a day actually filling out forms or being processed through various stations. The uniform station was actually just a fitting for our Army uniforms, which will be available at my next stop. I did get a gas mask however.

On the good side the weather is beautiful, the sushi is good and inexpensive, there is plenty of time for exercise and excellent opportunities to talk with other servicemembers of various rates and occupations. You can certainly learn a lot about the Navy talking to folks outside your community.