Thursday, October 17, 2013

Days 41-45

This is the outside of the Center for the Intrepid.
Monday we woke up bright and early and headed up to the track for a brigade run, that is right a brigade run. Apparently a Command Sergeant Major was retiring and they wanted to do a run to honor him on his last day, so 4,000+ of us on base here and Fort Sam Houston took off and did a 3+ mile run in formation. (though run might be a stretch) Afterwards we were back in the classroom all day for more lectures in prep for our final examination. On Tuesday it was more of the same, physical training in the morning followed by lectures for the rest of the day. Tuesday afternoon the LTC who is in charge of our training came in to do his out brief and basically go through each of the stages of our training with him and tell him ideas for what could be improved and what could be continued. Wednesday we had our final exam first thing in the morning. The test went very well, mainly because I think we had a lot less information, but I scored well missing only 2 questions. Wednesday afternoon we started our mental resiliency training. Overall, this was a lot of information and concepts that I had heard before but it is always good to have refreshers and hear it again. Thursday we had more mental resiliency training followed by a platoon visit to the Center for the Intrepid and Fort Sam Houston. This place was an amazing building where they are able to do some amazing things. Even the name is pretty cool, I had never thought about it but intrepid means fearless or courageous, so the name is the Center for the Fearless. The people that go through there that have burns all over their body, or multiple limb amputations and what they are able to accomplish afterwards is just amazing. That ended our day on Thursday and Friday was the start of our 4 day weekend, me and a group of guys ended up going to the SeaWorld here in San Antonio for the day because we were able to get in free with our military I.D's. Thankfully, we only have 1 more week of BOLC and then I will have 1 more week of my track phase and then it will be time to head back to the East Coast to Fort Bragg to start into my job!

This is a cool piece of equipment that they use for
their training. It is a big dome with sensors all over
the walls and a treadmill that moves and tilts in the middle
so the person will get on it and walk and move and the system
will react to them as they move and measure their kinematics.
This is a picture of a dolphin that I got. They had them in a
large swimming area that you could stand right next to and pet
them as they swam by. It was just like the stingray areas that
they like to do in Florida.

This is a picture at the shark exhibit. This was 3 sharks that
were just laying on the floor of the tank in between the little
make shift reef. I thought it was interesting because I had never
seen that before.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 39-40

Thursday was our going home day. We started out the morning with combatives and we were learning finishing moves (ie. chokes and arm bars, which are meant to break/dislocate arms, elbows and shoulders.) I know I have not talked a lot about our combatives training but it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately we did not to have as many classes as we were suppose to have because of the shut down and other factors but it is definitely something that I would like to continue to do. Overall, they have 4 levels that you can get certified on, thankfully the base that I am going to is one of the places where they do level 1,2 and some 3 training. To do level 4 you have to go to the fight school at Ft. Benning. Anyways, after combatives we started cleaning up the FOB and doing our final little duties before loading up the buses and heading back to Ft. Sam Houston. Once we got back to Ft. Sam we dropped off our weapons at the armory and had them inspected to make sure they were clean enough. Friday we were back into the classroom, even though most people were happy to get out of the field this was a tough adjustment to get back into the classroom all day. Thankfully we only have 3 more days of lecture until our final exam.
This is another video from the Blackhawk trip. This one is from inside the Blackhawk during the ride it was pretty cool but not as long as I thought it would be. I stopped my video before we went down because we had to start getting ready to get out of the helicopter. Well our training is getting down towards the end. I have 2 more weeks of our BOLC training and then 1 week of my AOC training, so I am pretty excited about finishing up here and getting to get back to see my family, along with starting at my new job.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 38

Wednesday was our day to do Role I. I had been looking forward to this role because this is the one where we are out in the field performing convoys, reacting to contact and setting up perimeters, rally points, etc. Little did I know going into it that I would be having a very stressful/busy day. I was originally assigned to be a medic during our pre-training, however, Tuesday night our platoon leader went back to Fort Sam Houston for a medical emergency and I was picked to be the platoon leader! Unfortunately, I did not really have much of an idea of what I needed to be doing. I was put in contact with the platoon leader from another group who had run the same role that day, to get a heads up on what to expect and what I needed to do. My biggest objectives immediately was that I needed to write an OPORD (Operations Order) which basically just outlines all the information about the operation that we would be running, including react to contact drills, convey traveling spend, break contact speed and catch up speed, convey formation at evacuation points, convey formation at our 2 aid stations and plenty more that I can't even remember at this point.  Secondly, I found out that I needed to put together a sand model of our operation. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of this when I was done. It was basically made in a sand box and you laid out the grid lines that we would be operating in, along with the road ways, mountain tops and any other significant terrain features, I also had to mark our check points, ambulance exchange points, rally points and aid station points. I ended up staying up pretty late trying to get all my plans together for Wednesday morning. Well after I got everything set up Wednesday morning I got everyone together to brief them on the operation that we would be running that day. Afterwards we all headed out to our trucks to do our equipment checks, weapons check, load our magazines and do the radio checks. For this training exercise, half of the platoon was made up of guys from my normal platoon (3rd) and the other half was made up of another platoon (4th). This was my biggest worry because I did not know most of the other guys and I didn't know my platoon sergeant at all because he was from the other platoon (though he promised me he knew what was going on and that he would be able to run things like he was suppose to in the field.) Anyways, thankfully we got all of our checks done and left our FOB on time. We had gone about 1100 meters into our route when we were hit by insurgents with automatic weapons and RPG's. (Really it was just cadre dressed up with weapons and smoke grenades that mimicked damage from their weapons.) We quickly lost a vehicle from the RPG and had 4 casualties in the truck that we needed to move, of  course at the time of the attack all of our radios seemed to start working. I knew from our training that I needed to get fire superiority quickly then bring up our aid and litter truck from the non-contact side to move our casualties, get our recovery vehicle up to tow our downed truck and then get everyone to our ambulance exchange point for medical evacuation. Unfortunately, for me my platoon sergeant seemed to forget all the battle drills that I had briefed in our OPORD, when I got back to the convoy (because my radio was not working I had to get out and get back to see what was going on) my platoon sergeant had the aid and litter truck up behind the wrong truck, and we did not have fire superiority yet. Anyways I got our guys trying to fire back more and then get our casualties moved and our truck out of there to the ambulance exchange point. After we got our patients evacuated we got back onto the road heading to our aid stations, unfortunately we were then hit by another small arms attack and took 4 more casualties that we had to evacuate out. After setting up at our next ambulance exchange point we finally go back on the road and headed to our aid station. At our aid station we had just enough time to set everything up before we received some casualties from the front lines that we had to treat and move back for further care. Finally, in the afternoon we started back along our route and were about 3 kilometers from our FOB when we spotted an IED and had to get out and do our checks. Thankfully I was able to see the IED before it was set off and we had to back up and do our checks, at that point we found a secondary IED and had to move farther back do our checks again and then call in the EOD guys to blow the IED's . After that we continued back to the FOB and had one more contact which was just small arms fires but we were able to just increase speed to break contact and did not take any casualties. Unfortunately everything did not go as smooth as I would have hoped for it to go. We had 2 negligent discharges (one from my platoon sergeant and another one from someone in the other platoon) this was after I had stressed 5-6 times about weapon awareness because some groups had, had negligent discharges the day before. Thankfully, the things I had immediate control over seemed to go okay, we were able to get our 9-line medevac calls out quickly along with our ACE, SALUTE and Sitreps. We had a lot of issues though things got better throughout the day, we had more stuff go on than I can cover now but I might get into later. Overall it wasn't terrible, though it was not a lot of fun when I was in it because I was getting a constant earful from the cadre throughout the whole day, but looking back it was a good learning experience and I think I would do a whole lot better in the future.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 37

Well I will start off today with a video of the Blackhawk that I was trying to post yesterday. This is a picture of us being dropped off at the Role 3. The litter carriers are getting the litter patients off and myself and the other ambulatory patient had already gotten off on our own.
We started out the day with a quick breakfast and then we headed off in the trucks to our CSH or Role 3. The Role 3 is just a combination of Alaskain shelters (which are large dome tents) that you join together and then they have premade large shipping containers that have OR's set up in them that they can attach to the end and you can expand and have a clean room right away. My job in the Role 3 was Medical Supply OIC (officer in charge) unfortunately I did not have much to do since we were not really using real supplies. Want I ended up just doing is helping moving patients from the ER to the OR and I could still moniter my area through my radio or passing by it since I was right off the corridor from the ER to the OR. Overall this was a pretty slow role that day and we finished about lunch. In the afternoon we switched with the other platoon that was there with us and we went outside to learn how to put up an Alaskain shelter. I will stop here and mention this was the first day of the government shut down so we were not sure how things were going to go. When we got to our CSH there were a group of civilians that work in a building right next to the CSH and normally are there during our training to give us guidance and help us out during our training. They also were there to walk as through the layout and process to set a CSH up. Well after they walked us through the CSH in the morning they were sent home, and we did not have the Blackhawk out anymore as well, so I was happy I had gotten my ride when I did. Anyways, we had 1 civilian left from the morning and they walked us through setting the base the sides, doorways and then finally putting the canvas on it. After we put it all up we got to take it down and pack it away and that took about the rest of the afternoon so we headed back to our FOB for dinner.
This is a picture of my medical
supply area that I was in charge
of during our Role 3 training.
This is the mover that picks up the containers with the OR or
dentist wing in them. This thing was really huge, the wheels on
it are taller than me and I am 6'3".

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 36

Monday started out with us heading out to Camp Bullis bright and early in the morning to start our last week of our field training. This week felt vaguely familiar to the start of our past few weeks, in that it was fairly cold in the morning but then warmed up throughout the day and was then hot for the rest of the week. Once we got out to the FOB we got our gear together in our tents (though I found out they are called Alaskan shelters) and were reissued our weapons. We felt lucky that the buses showed up in the morning to pick us up from the hotel because some people were concerned that because of the government looking like it was going to shut down they might not send us out. Once we got there some people were worried they would not have the bus drivers come to pick us back up. Anyways, I digress, Monday we were scheduled to be in the Role 2 scenario. If you have any questions about Role 2 you can look at some of my older posts that explain the different roles of medical care in the Army. The plan for the day was that Platoon 3 (which I am in) would man the role and in the afternoon Platoon 4 would man the role and we would be some of their patients. We would also receive patients from the platoons that were manning the role 1 that day. My job in the Role 2 was to be a litter bearer and triage at the front of the medical facility. Our training started out with as having a little bit of time for everybody to settle into their own roles and talk with each other how we were planning on having patients flow through our facility. Next we started having some soldiers from Platoon 4 start coming up with various stomach bugs and issues that we would see when we would be deployed. After we had seen a few patients come in the fun really picked up. Some cadre started setting noise makers that sounded like mortars and then they would explode, our cadre with then start throwing smoke grenades and we would have to go out and look for casualties and then bring them in to our facility. At the same time our fellow soldiers would be out going to their Role 1 treatment area and sustain injuries along the way and they would get transported back for treatment and then evacuate from our facility to the Role 3. The day was really nice and we actually had a Blackhawk helicopter that was training with us and they would be transporting patients back to us and from us to later roles of care. We also had ground transportation for the less severe patients. Towards the end of our training time they hit us with a mass casualty to see how we would organize and handle all the patients. We seemed to handle everyone well and I do not think that we had any issues with our part of the drill. After our MRE lunch we were given the role of playing injured soldiers for the platoon that was now running the Role 2. I volunteered to be an injured pt. and was given a card of a person how had lost their left upper extremity in an explosion and was bleeding profusely (A lot of people were volunteering to be an injured person and that they would be one of the ones severe enough to get an air evacuation in the Blackhawk.) I was not sure whether my injury was going to be severe enough for a Blackhawk ride but I was hoping it would be. Well the cadre told us where they wanted us staged and then the set off their mortar and through some smoke grenades around us, we then had to begin acting our injuries according to the card we were given. Well I was found and the put on a litter and carried into the facility. I was unable to walk even with my arm amputation because of my profuse bleeding. When I got the facility they put a tourniquet on me but they still had to get me into surgery. Fortunately, our Forward Surgical Team was back up because they had patients in surgery (you had to hold them in the O.R. for a certain amount of time to mimic real life scenarios.) So they decided to move me into the evacuation area about this time the Blackhawk had just gotten back and had room for 2 litter patients and 2 ambulatory patients, because I had a tourniquet and had been given blood I was deemed to be able to be ambulatory and was told I was going to be evacuated on the Blackhawk. Anyway I have posted some pictures and a video of the Blackhawk and will post some more on later days. After my ride I was moved to the Role 3 facility where I was put in the O.R. and then recovered enough to be moved back to the States. That pretty much concluded my day and I just had to wait to get a ride back on one of the transport trucks back to our FOB. Thankfully I got a Blackhawk ride that day because after that because of the government shut down we did not have the helicopter support so no one else got a ride, and we did not have all of our cadre because some were placed on leave, but more on that another day. Tomorrow I am going to write about our Role 3 and probably Role 1 experience as well.
This is a picture of me sitting in
the back of the helicopter waiting
for it to take off.

This is us getting dropped off at
the Role 3. You can see the litter team
getting ready to go in and get one
of the litter patients.
This is the Blackhawk leaving
after dropping us at the Role 3
Well my video will not load for some reason so I will try and figure it our and post more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 34-35

This is a picture from the top of Mount
Blanc. It was one of the hills that we
had to cross over on the land
navigation course.
Day Thursday started out bright and early with combatives. I didn't mention this earlier but we actually started combatives on Monday morning. This was a lot of fun and a good workout at the same time. It is definitely something that I would enjoy continuing to learn and get better at it. Anyways after combatives we headed out to the field for our land navigation practice time prior to our test which would be Friday morning. Our land navigation practice basically consisted of us getting about 4-5 points plotting them on our map and then getting the magnetic azimuth and distance and going out to walk the base and see how we did. That took about the whole morning me and my partner were pretty much right on for all of our points and felt fairly confident going into our test. In the afternoon we headed back to the FOB for lunch and then we had training for our Role 2 and Role 3 training of next week. Friday morning had us waking up for land navigation at 0200 They were blaring Eye of the Tiger over the FOB speaker system as we got dressed and loaded our duffel bags in prep for heading back home after land navigation. Land navigation

This was on the way back to the our
last point on our way to the FOB. You
can see the little ledge of rocks that we
had to climb down.
This was our last point with
our score sheet next to it. You
had to write the number down
and punch the paper at each
point and then they checked
it to a master list when we got
  consisted of us being given 8 points and 5 hours to plot and then find 5 of the 8 points. We were told to that if you felt confident with your land navigation to team up with someone in your squad that was not as strong so that everyone could have a chance of passing. So once my partner got and I got our points and the time started we plotted the points on our map and decided on the route that we wanted to take. Our plan was to go in a full circle and to start out with short distances between points (since it was going to be dark) and to start on the part of the course that we had been on the day earlier because we knew the land a little better. We started out and we had a little bit of difficulty finding the first point because we had not gone quite far enough and it was hidden behind some bigger bushes. After that first point though we seemed to hit our stride and ended up finding 7 of the 8 points before the sun even came up. We planned it so that our last point was heading back to the base and it was a long hike (just over 1500 meters) but it was daylight and actually right on the panic azimuth to get us back to the FOB so it worked out really well. We actually make it back to the FOB with just over 2 hours to spare so we had plenty of time to sit around and wait for everyone else to make it back in. After we made it back we waited around and once the time was up and everyone was back we took a class picture and then packed everything up and headed back to Fort Sam Houston. This next week should be interesting with the government budget cuts and possible shut down I don't know how it will affect our training but the plan is to be actually going through battle drills and convoy operations as well as practicing in our Role 1-2-3 jobs. We will be given a lot of blank ammo and will be going through reacting to contact drills and other evacuation scenarios. Hopefully everything will go well and I will post more pictures as I can.
This was a old black hawk that they
had out in the field which was one of the
start points for the land navigation test.

Day 31-33

Well our week started out bright and early in front of our hotel waiting on the buses to show up to get us out to Camp Bullis. The Monday before it had rained on us this Monday it was chilly. We could see our breathes in the morning and the temperature was in the low 50's! I understand this is not that cold in the grand scheme of things but it was a change from the high 90's to low 100's that we had been having the week before. When we got out to the FOB we collected up our weapons and had a MRE for breakfast before we split up into platoons and started going through training on our Role's of care. In the Army they have 4 roles of medical care. Role 1 is front line care given by Medics along with physician's and physician's assistants (PA's) at a Brigade Aid Station which is essentially tailgate medicine where they pull up a HUMVEE put out a few tables and try to stabilize casualties to get them back to the FOB. Role 2 is a FOB where they can do more treatment but it is still very limited trying to stabilize patients for evacuation back to more care. You are only able to hold patients here for up to 72 hours and then they must be evacuated or returned to duty. This is the level that Physical Therapists are first found at to help try to return to soldiers back to full duty instead of evacuating them back and losing them for longer periods of time. Role 3 is a CSH (Combat Support Hospital) this is a hospital where they can perform more advanced surgeries and hold patients for longer periods to stabilize them to wait to evacuation to a role 4 or to RTD (return to duty.) Role 4 is the larger medical centers found in Germany and the U.S. where the most advanced care is given. So on Monday we went over how to set up and secure a Role 1 treatment location. We covered picking a location, providing security, layout of treatment area, triage and evacuation set up. On Tuesday we covered CBRN training (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) we basically went through out to set up a decontamination station and how we would decontaminate injured soldiers so that we could move them back for full treatment or evacuation to further advanced care. After we did our walk and crawl phase of training, they called a CBRN attack and we had to get our gas masks out of the bag and on and cleared in less than 9 seconds. Our final step was running a patient through the whole decontamination process with our masks on and rubber aprons on. Wednesday we headed out to the range to do our mock qualification. I say that because we are not officially qualified till we are with our units and pass. Anyways we got out to the range and we were given 2, 20 round magazines and 4, 10 round magazines because we were going to get to shoot through the test 2 times. My first time through I seemed to be doing okay but most of the targets were not going down right away. I was not sure where I was missing though because I could not see the bullet splashing in the dirt. After finishing the kneeling stage of my first qualification test. (You shoot 20 rounds in prone supported, 10 rounds prone unsupported and 10 rounds kneeling.) I asked my spotter where I was missing and he was not sure but stated that it looked good. My second time through the test I was having a lot of the same issues. The targets were very hard to see (green on green background) and they did not seem to be going down when you hit them even though you could not see where the round was hitting, so I was guessing that I was hitting behind the target. Well when I got out to the  tower after my second round we met up with one of the range officers and he informed us he did not have a score for any of us because the computer was not registering hits, taking down targets or working at all during our 2 rounds, but he said if we wanted to go again we might be able to go at the end. While we waited for everyone to finish we marched down the road and get oriented to the Blackhawk that we would be using during our final week of FTX. After we finished that we headed back to the range and they asked if anyone wanted to go again so I volunteered and headed back. This time we were only given 40 rounds which was enough to go through the test once. This time when I lined up to shoot the targets seemed to be going down much quicker when I shot and seemed to be more responsive overall. When I finished I headed back to the tower to see my score and I found out that I hit 30 out of 40 which was not bad but I had felt like I did much better. The range officer said that was one of the best scores he has seen all day though and that they had been having glitches in the system. He also said that if you could shoot that on this course you would probably to much better once you could get your own weapon, so that made me feel a little better. Overall it was a good first few days of the week, I will cover Thursday and Friday later.

This is a picture of our truck that takes
us around each day parked at the range.
This is another picture of range where
we did our shooting.
This is a picture of the specialist who
was giving us a tour of the Blackhawk.

This is another picture of us gathered
around the UH-60 (Blackhawk)
This is a picture of the inside of the
Blackhawk where the litters are

This is the litter holders in the Blackhawk
it can hold 4 litters. Once the 4 litters are
loaded you rotate them 90 degrees so they
run perpendicular in the aircraft and you
are able to get to all 4 patients.