VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Under the watchful eye of an expert trainer armed with a stopwatch, 30th Medical Group personnel move with a sense of urgency and purpose as they set up a mobile decontamination station to help diagnose and process patients affected by a simulated contamination incident.
This scene represents just a small portion of the medical training which is managed by the 30th MDG Medical Readiness Flight. As captured in the recently published Comprehensive Medical Readiness Plan, medical training requirements are now organized into four distinct categories.
“Category I covers clinical currencies, which are what everyone needs to do in order to treat patients and be current with the skills they need on a day-to-day basis,” explains 1st Lt. Jordan Mueller, 30th Medical Group medical logistics and medical readiness flight commander. “Then you have Category II which is readiness skills, and these are items you need to perform prior to deploying or participating in an exercise. Category III is for medical specific Unit Type Codes, so for expeditionary support, the clinics in a tent, we would have to coordinate extra training on top of the Category I and II requirements. Category IV is Medical Contingency Response Plans training, and this is our general gameplan for how we perform during a home station medical response issue.”
Category IV is where the decontamination training fits in, as the 30th MDG personnel break from their normal day-to-day positions and reorganize into response teams for some hands-on practical experience.
“With our home station response, it’s all about what team you’re on,” said Mueller. “If you’re in dental, you might be on triage with someone from optometry, so it doesn’t really matter what flight you’re in – that all goes out the door. Now we’re part of these different response teams, which include areas like decontamination, and this is our playbook for how they’re supposed to play.”
Managing all four categories of medical training requirements requires a nimble, flexible approach for the Medical Readiness Flight. As they work to track changing training needs, they also leverage the platforms which match up best with those individual and team needs. In many cases Airmen will be sent out to established Air Force training centers, but other training options can be found by partnering with local resources or by hosting various experts at Vandenberg.
“Bringing in experts like this to train is a pretty awesome opportunity,” said Mueller. “For a lot of our Airmen, patient decontamination is only something they do during our training days or exercises where they get to practice. We have folks in logistics, or in dental – and that’s what they are worried about – so whenever we’re able to pull them away from their sections and have them focus on something like decontamination, we’ve seen a great response. Our times have gotten better, the number of patients we’ve been able to treat has improved. I think in general, they get a newfound respect for their disaster response teams.”
That newfound respect for readiness training is a sentiment echoed by Air Force leadership according to Thomas Smith, 30th MDG readiness training manager.
“With exercises picking up, it’s taking what the Chief of Staff and everybody on down are saying that readiness needs to be at the forefront. That’s how we’re doing it at the local level, by bringing experts out and helping our Airmen become the local experts to make sure that if anything happens, we are ready.”