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NMRTC Bremerton has formed a unique partnership to help ensure there’s a ready medical force capable of supporting fleet mission – and medical - readiness.
Under coordination from Cmdr. John M. Miyahara, Pastoral Care department head, NMRTC Bremerton has teamed up with Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 11 to temporarily assign hospital corpsmen for operational platform training and familiarization exercises.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Don Wilwayco and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jose Deras spent several weeks in May with MSRON 11, which operates ashore, at sea and in harbors, rivers, bays and littorals of Puget Sound. The squadron conducts maritime security operations by providing port and harbor security for the third largest fleet concentration in the U.S.
In his role as NMRTC Bremerton command/clinical chaplain, Miyahara attests that readiness is a crucial issue based upon the principle of syncing body, mind and spirit for good health and wellness, as well as building the necessary toughness to wage and sustain a fight.
“Readiness is about resilience. Readiness is about grit. Being in an operational setting helps our corpsmen get into the rhythm and routine of prioritizing readiness in all they do when on the job,” explained Miyahara, citing Adm. Harry B. Harris, former commander of U.S. Pacific Command as an direct influence in understanding the importance of operational readiness.
“We worked under former PACOM Commander Harry Harris and his mantra was, “We are ready to fight tonight.” In order to be able to do that, we need to work on ourselves as much as we do our job skills,” Miyahara related from his duty assignment with Destroyer Squadron 31 out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
When Miyahara arrived at NMRTC Bremerton, his operational experience and training capability provided a foundation from which to build upon in providing opportunities for Sailors with minimal Navy fleet experience.
“When I got here and took on some training missions I saw we were lacking, especially for new corpsmen, exposure to operational life. I really wanted to find an experience that would help our corpsmen get that sense of operational life,” said Miyahara, who took the initiative and reached out to MSRON 11 leadership requesting to allow corpsmen to join their boat crews for mission mentoring and in turn permit the corpsmen to provide medical training.
“It’s been a win-win for both commands,” stated Miyahara.
For Wilwayco, taking part in small boat ops proved to be a distinctive – yet exhilarating - experience compared to his time earning his Fleet Marine Force designation with 3d Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, Okinawa, Japan.
“The work environment was obviously very different from being with the Marines. What was similar was the mindset of focusing on the mission,” said Wilmayco, adding that the small boat crews exhibited the same traits as the Marines. “MSRON 11 is a close-knit command. They have great camaraderie, [and] work really well together with a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality.”
The boat crew, consisting of a coxswain, navigator, engineer and at least one other crewman, welcomed the two corpsmen and shared their work environment, demonstrated their varied roles and explained their daily responsibilities.
“We were introduced to weapon handling, logistics, engineering, communications and unit operations. It was all a very valuable experience for us coming from a shore command to undergo what it is like to be on an operational platform,” Wilmayco said.
For their part, Wilmayco and Deras provided instruction on self-aid and buddy-aid.
“We assisted their command training team in developing a Tactical Combat Casualty Care program that is applicable for the kind of injuries and casualties a small boat unit could expect during a mission, such as burns, gunshot wounds and blast injuries. Those are all concerns with Marines, too, but on the small boat there was medical response training for handling a man-overboard or drowning victim. There’s also needing to know how to recognize and deal with the elements from being out on the open water, such as hypothermia, sun and wind burn, and dehydration,”
“We taught the basics such as placing a tourniquet and managing an airwave,” continued Wilmayco. “We went over MARCH [acronym] to prioritize the casualty evaluation steps; massive hemorrhage, airway, respiration, circulation, head injury and/or hypothermia. We also worked with their medical team to conduct training in damage resuscitative interventions and casualty evacuations procedures.”
When underway for two drilling and maneuvering training exercises providing medical support, Wilmayco and Deras also learned first-hand on boat crew operations, along with tactics and techniques which are applied when conducting maritime force protection, infrastructure and high-valued asset defense, coastal surveillance and special missions.
“Being with them was a great experience. I’d definitely do it again. Although we were only there for a few weeks, we were accepted and felt like we contributed to their knowledge to help them manage different injuries they might have during a mission,” Wilmayco said.
According to Miyahara there are several more iterations of the cross-training partnership planned.
“Definitely beneficial for us to be able to have an operational platform experience and be trained on the specifics of an expeditionary warfare capable unit,” commented Wilmayco. “MSRON also benefited by having subject matter experts in such qualifications as TCCC and Basic Life Support training.”
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