Medical Teams Take On The Gunpowder Challenge
Exercise simulates battlefield scenario to help prepare military medical students
Bullets are zooming past your head. The ground is shaking from the aftermath of bombs detonating. The deafening sounds of war make it hard to hear yourself think. Your most important weapon is not your rifle, but your medical kit.
Sixteen teams of uniformed medical students competed in the annual "Gunpowder Challenge". The challenge is a two-day field exercise designed to help medical students develop team-based military leadership, medical expertise, and team-building.
"The goals of the exercise were to develop team-based military and medical leadership, communication skills, and experience how stress affects performance during crisis situations," said Cmdr. James Palma, the Gunpowder Challenge officer in charge. "We are very proud of these students and their efforts over the past two days and we are happy that you are going to be the leaders of our military health care system in the future."
The first day of the challenge is spent in small groups rotating through four training stations that prepare them for the timed race on the second day. The four stations are an advanced trauma life-support scenario, improvisation, tactical combat casualty care, and bushmaster.
"It was really good to be able to go through all the exercises on the first day before the race," said Ensign Megan Ohmer, an USUHS student.
Having the ability to fail when nothing really terrible happens, learn from your mistakes, and then try again the next day to improve your performance was a valuable learning experience." - Ensign Ohmer
The advanced trauma life-support scenarios allow the students to practice skills such as placement of chest tubes and IVs using dummies.
In the tactical combat casualty care scenario, there is an active shooter who has shot and wounded a number of people before being killed. Students must use cut suits. Cut suits are human-worn simulators that allow cutting, suturing, IV insertion, chest tube placement and produce fake blood to make the scenario as realistic as possible.
"We got to take all the field knowledge we've learned and apply it in a real-world setting," said Ensign Yarrow Sheldon, Gunpowder Challenge participant. "These exercises allowed us to take our lessons out of the lecture hall and apply them in actual simulations."
The Operation Bushmaster Rehearsal of Concepts session is similar to a wargaming event. Two platoons at a time, in separate rooms, have sand tables with sophisticated props. They lay out the Bushmaster operation site and run through scenarios as if their platoon was responding, while rotating team roles. The Bushmaster training exercise concludes with a simulated convoy attack, resulting in mass casualties.
The improvisation exercise takes place in the woods behind the university. Students try to figure out ways to evacuate casualties using minimal equipment. The team must evacuate the casualties across a stream using a constructed rope bridge.