Gunfighter medics train to save lives

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Healthcare professionals with the 149th Medical Group, a subordinate unit of the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, underwent intense medical training at the Centre for Emergency Health Sciences in Spring Branch, Texas, on Apr. 22, 2012.

Known as the Lone Star Gunfighters, the 149th Fighter Wing has the capability to respond to a multitude of missions. As a state asset, under the control of the Texas governor, the Air National Guard unit is prepared to respond to catastrophic disasters which may require large-scale humanitarian relief efforts, such as a major wildfire or hurricane.

Through the use of two cadavers that were donated for medical research, senior civilian paramedic educators provided guided instruction to the Citizen-Airmen on intubation and airway clearance, as well as chest decompression and bleeding control measures.

Additionally, the seasoned first-responders provided training on intraosseous insertion techniques, which provides hydration or pharmaceuticals through the bone of the tibia, humerus and femur. This process can be used in exigent circumstances where life-saving fluids cannot be introduced into a patient intravenously.

A portion of the daylong training also included a demonstration of civilian medical airlift capabilities.

Tech. Sgt. Sarah Wilcox, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 149th Medical Group's nursing program, organized this particular training in order for the military healthcare professionals - both officer and enlisted - to learn directly from front-line civilian practitioners on emergency medical procedures.

"For most medics, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn these techniques in the most realistic scenario," Wilcox said. "This is going to allow us to fine tune our training and practices in the future."

Scotty Bolleter, a paramedic and the chief of clinical direction for Bulverde - Spring Branch EMS, led the training. He has over 25 year's worth of medical experience involving ground and flight critical care, and was named the 2011 EMS Educator of the Year by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

"It's with the highest honor and deepest respect that we recognize the lives and families of those who have donated their bodies so that others may learn," Bolleter said. "Training with this level of sophistication, with the combination of various disciplines, is extremely unique."

The noted educator added that using "fresh and embalmed specimens allows on the spot confirmation, absolute realism and unparalleled tactile feedback to each skillset required in emergent situations."

Tech. Sgt. Keith Harvey, a medical technician with the 149th Medical Group, explained the benefits he received from this particular training. "You don't feel bones, veins or arteries on a mannequin," Harvey said. "This will help me treat patients better, [and] to better assess their needs."

The military professionals also learned best practices from Dr. Lee Reichel, an orthopedic surgeon with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who was visiting the Hill Country facility for separate training. He volunteered to share personal experiences and insight into situations he has encountered at Ben Taub General Hospital, a Level-I trauma center, also located in the nation's 4th largest city.

"This is a unique opportunity and eye-opening experience," Dr. Craig Manifold, an Air Force colonel and commander of the 149th Medical Group, told his troops. "These are experiences and techniques you may have to apply in the field, during hurricane season or other times when disaster strikes."

"This training is not just academic," Manifold added, who in his civilian capacity also serves as the medical director of the San Antonio Fire Department's EMS division and as an assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio. "This is about training and being prepared to save lives."