Surgical disaster team trains for real-world contingencies

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Battlefield injuries can be unpredictable for service members. The 51st Medical Operations Squadron surgical disaster team has trained for real-world contingencies by providing medical care for service members with simulated injuries during Exercise Beverly Bulldog 15-01.

A surgical disaster team is a component of the hospital set up to take care of patients who may have a variety of injuries. It is their job to stabilize the patient before being transported out of theater. A mobile field surgical team arrived from a Pacific area of responsibility to support the on-ground troops during the exercise.

"During any war time scenario you are going to get some pretty badly injured individuals and some of those require operations to stabilize them so they can get evacuated to a higher level of care," said Maj. Christopher Mahoney, 51st MDOS general surgeon. "Our main purpose in being here is to provide damage control surgeries to be able to stabilize the patient to get them to a higher level of care."

The disaster team performs operations on a variety of injuries such as gunshot and shrapnel wounds, burns, wounds from explosions or abdominal injuries.

"Working with other surgeons has given us a better idea of how to treat these cases if they were to become real world because as a general surgeon I am able to see how an orthopedic surgeon handles injuries on a routine basis and I am able to benefit from that knowledge," said Mahoney.

During previous exercises the MFST has always simulated in the scenarios.

"Being out here has been extremely beneficial because working together has allowed us to run ideas off of each other and learn how to improve our capabilities," said Capt. Timothy Ewald, 51st MDOS MFST orthopedic surgeon.

"This is outside the scope of our standard peacetime mission of taking care of our service members, and we don't get to practice simulated damage control on patients as much," he said.

This exercise has provided the MFST members with experience they will be able to use in future operations.

"I have learned about some of the basic wartime medicines that we don't always have to deal with," Ewald said. "This exercise has helped me gain knowledge on how to triage things, become familiar with a facility and fellow surgeons I may work with during war time and becoming more acclimated with the different levels of Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear and hostility levels."

This exercise allows the Airmen to become better prepared for real-world emergencies.

"It's a good opportunity to not only get them (MFST) here logistically, but also have a chance to give them the opportunity to learn how we practice exercises, and what they can expect in a real-world contingency," said Mahoney. "Integrating them into our team in a practice scenario is beneficial in how we would incorporate them in a real-world scenario."