Airborne Medics Test Unique Skills


Airborne medics have hammered out the skills they might need for operations around the world on Exercise SERPENT’S ANVIL.

Troops from Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment (16 Med Regt) tested their techniques and the high-tech, lightweight equipment they would use to provide medical care to the Airborne Task Force (ABTF) – the British Army’s new rapid reaction force.

The exercise, held at the Army Medical Services Training Centre in York, saw medics tested to the limits of their capabilities, kit and supplies. A field hospital, including a resuscitation suite, operating theatre and intensive care ward, was set up to treat simulated casualties using equipment such as portable digital X-ray machine and handheld diagnostic scanners.

Lt Col Steven Tracey, CO of 16 Med Regt, said: “We offer a unique capability within the British military, not just the Army, of being able to deploy a surgical team by parachute.

“To be ready for our role in the ABTF we have to move away from our recent experiences in Afghanistan. We could find ourselves operating in conditions that are hostile, not just in terms of fighting, but the lack of depth to transport and medical resources and environmental conditions, such as sanitation and the prevalence of tropical disease.

“This requires our medics to develop a different mindset to work without the safety net there is in Afghanistan of having what is probably the best trauma hospital in the world a quick helicopter ride away. This training has tested our ability to work light, fast and on our own.”

16 Med Regt provides Role 2 medical support to the ABTF, offering consultant-lead life, limb and eyesight saving resuscitation and surgery as well as primary healthcare. Specialist personnel in the unit including orthopaedic surgeons, biomedical scientists and combat medical technicians.

Senior surgeon Lt Col Paul Parker said: “This exercise is as realistic as it can be made. We only have the supplies we would be able to deploy with and treat casualties in real time.”

A key piece of equipment is the Dragon digital X-ray machine, which was issued to 16 Med Regt in September 2011 after being used successfully in Afghanistan.

Radiographer Sgt Dave Everiss said: “It’s the difference between film photography and a digital camera, giving us an X-ray in three seconds rather than minutes. It’s a lifesaving piece of kit that will make a massive difference to the speed we can give treatment at.”

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