Ready for the Joint Fight

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

A sharp loud whistle broke the silence before a mortar impact sent the small group carrying a critical cargo to the ground for cover, enemy fire erupted from the tree line, they could see their goal at the top of the hill through the tall grass. Their mission was clear, “Get to the helicopter”.

The 14th Flying Training Wing was host to an emergent concept of training August 17, 2023, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi to conduct joint service operations in a simulated combat theater without Air Dominance.

“We want to sustain operations, stabilize, and transport patients in a deployed environment where the United States Air Force and Allied Air Forces do not have command of the AOR (Area of Responsibility) Airspace,” said Richard C. Bullock, 14th Medical Group, Medical Readiness Manager. “The event is a Joint Exercise Deployment collaboration between the 14th Medical Group, 14th Civil Engineering squadron, 14th Security Forces Squadron (SFS), 223d Engineer Battalion and the 185th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB).”

Airmen and Soldiers worked together to achieve specific objectives to exercise Contingency Warfare Casualty Care Protocols Under Fire.

“This event will showcase critical deployment medical operations, Security Forces AOR containment actions and joint unit collaboration efforts between two Department of Defense services,” said Bullock. “14th Medical Group (MDG) personnel have collaborated in the past with one of the two Mississippi Army National Guard Units (MSARNG), the 223d Engineer Battalion, participating in our training exercise. The first iteration with our mission partners, started as a Joint Medical Exercise in May (2023) with the 223rd Engineer Battalion from West Point, Mississippi. 10 Soldiers participated in our training exercise, in-addition to teaching vital deployment skillsets to 60 medics.  In June, the 14 MDG collaborated with the 223rd Engineer Battalion, providing eight medical instructors to assist with their annual field exercise at Camp McCain in Grenada, Mississippi, supporting 310 Guardsmen & over $2 million dollars in combat assets.”

Participants in the joint exercise focused on core areas of interest such as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), MEDIC-X, patient triage, Joint Force Field Training and Combat Support activities.

“Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and Contingency Warfare Combat Casualty Care protocols are very similar; the latter is U.S. Army Specific. We applied those protocols with Mississippi Army National Guard Soldiers during their annual field exercise,” said Bullock. “Even though they are similar in concept, the training protocols utilized between the services are completely different. The collaborative training actions are a win/win for all units. We will be training on Army equipment and applying joint MEDEVAC protocols, sharing Air Force processes and TCCC training methods to make all personnel efficient and effective warfighters.”

The 185th ECAB provided an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Mississippi Army National Guard to exercise the MEDEVAC portion of the joint training.

Medical personnel from the 14 MDG employed MEDIC-X skill knowledge during the joint exercise to provide life-saving medical care in a simulated combat zone. MEDIC-X is a standardized training program for all Air Force medical personnel that enables them to provide medical care under prolonged delays in higher medical attention while in a contested or non-Air Dominant environment. The program consists of approximately 52 medical skill sets culminating in 24-26 classroom hours of training annually. MEDIC-X skills include patient pain assessment, wound-site infection control, patient vital sign monitoring, spinal immobilization, patient movement and respiratory care.

The 14th MDG and 14th SFS utilized the training opportunity for the units to bridge knowledge gaps, capitalize on strengths and identify areas for improvement while working together in hostile environments. Medical personnel and Security Forces Defenders practiced land navigation, formation movements, repelling enemy contact, TCCC and MEDEVAC patient loading procedures.

“We’re working with the medical group to do a joint exercise for a casualty evacuation in a hostile zone,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Porter, 14th Security Forces squadron NCOIC operations. “They want the medical guys to feel like they’re in a real combat situation…we’re going to be providing security when they’re transporting their casualties to an actual Blackhawk helicopter provided by the Mississippi Army National Guard. We’re also the OPFOR (Opposing Forces) trying to stop the Defenders, they will be very well equipped, trained and will know our tactics. We also have a team that just came back from Little Rock, Arkansas, trained on smoke grenades and GBS (Ground Burst Simulators) to the effect where it’s about half a stick of dynamite when it goes off, its very loud and simulates incoming mortar fire.”

Medical Airmen received ambulatory evacuation demonstrations and hands-on application for loading and unloading patients into multi-layer military ambulances as part of the joint exercise.

“Our military principles and world events are rapidly changing how me must prepare for contingencies, and we must be able to expand our mission support and training horizons,” said Bullock. “The capstone exercise event will ensure our 14 FTW & MS ARNG personnel have the required contingency training to survive and operate with other DoD and Allied units in a deployed joint environment under hostile fire, while conducting mission essential tasks.”

The joint service training exercise aligns with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr’s Air Force Future Operating Concept (AFFOC), which describes how Airmen will compete with near-peer adversaries and falls under the Accelerate, Change, or Lose concept.