13th's Medical Soldiers train how they fight

Story and Photos by Pfc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office

CAMP BULLIS, Texas — The Soldiers quickly reacted to the enemy contact, maneuvering their vehicle so both sides had a chance to engage the enemy before dismounting to evacuate casualties off the battlefield to the waiting Blackhawk.

While this may sound like an actual combat mission, it’s only a part of the multi-faceted training conducted by Fort Hood’s 61st Multi-functional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), during their field training exercise at Camp Bullis, San Antonio October 20 – 28.

The exercise covered a wide variety of warrior tasks as well as many tasks specific to the medical logistics specialties of the units participating.

“This was a mission rehearsal exercise for 582nd Medical Logistics Company, which will deploy in support of [Operation Iraqi Freedom] in December, as well as a validation for the 583rd Medical Logistics Company and the 932nd Blood Support Detachment, after their redeployment from Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Ronald Krogh, commander, 61st MMB.

“We are also the severe weather and [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive] response team for NorthCom, so this exercise prepares us for our Homeland Security mission, as well,” Krogh, a Tacoma, Wash. native, added.

Due to the nature of the battalion, their mission focus was much more intense because units are constantly rotating in and out of theater operations.

“We have to focus on reintegration of returning units as well as preparing the headquarters for deployment,” said Krogh, “Preparing for deployments really never stops.”

Normally the battalion would spend it’s time in the garrison environment where conducting realistic training is difficult at best, so this opportunity gave them a chance to gain valuable experience.

“This was a chance for us to use the equipment we use when we deploy rather than sit in the garrison,” said Maj. Dennis Walker, executive officer, 61st MMB. “Somehow, some way all the training links to our mission assignment.”

The battalion had several blood services detachments sharpening their skills, as well as several medical logistics companies participating to enhance their field expedience.

The blood services detachments rehearsed their collection procedures just as they would conduct operations in theater. Each step in the process was thorough so as to ensure a good quality donation every time, said 2nd Lt. Ken Gonzales, executive officer, 932nd Blood Support Detachment, 61st MMB.

“We set up the system just as we would in a deployed environment,” said Sgt. Christopher B. LeRoy, lab sergeant, 932nd Blood Support Det., 61st MMB. “Everybody in the lab was taught well in [advance individual training], but we get familiar with our tasks and fine tune everything out here.”

Everybody fulfilling their individual responsibilities is one of the biggest factors in a successful blood support detachment.

“Team work is absolutely necessary; we can’t do it without it,” said LeRoy, “Everybody has to know their job and execute properly.”

Teamwork and cooperation didn’t stop there, as they were also vital components to the success of the medical logistics companies training. The companies conducted scenario based training with a convoy live-fire, supply training, fork lift operations training, teambuilding at the leadership reaction course, aerial resupply operations, and learned to use the equipment they would operate with in theater.

The medical equipment repair teams had the chance to actually assist a Combat Support Hospital in San Antonio while training in their specialties. The teams received broken or malfunctioning medical equipment from the CSH, triaged it in order of importance, and then each technician went to work on his assignment.

“This will be big because we don’t have a chance to do this in garrison,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dwight Gray, maintenance platoon sergeant, 582nd Med. Log. Co., 61st MMB, 1st Med. Bde., 13th SC(E). “The new guys get to see the process and the older guys take on new responsibility in preparation for our deployment.”

At the leadership reaction course the companies split into teams and attempted to maneuver through obstacles with the few tools provided. The observer/controller’s frequently appointed the lowest ranking member of the team as leader and only gave him a short time to assess the situation before briefing his team and come up with a solution.

Staff Sgt. Ross Raymond, CBRNE sergeant, headquarters and headquarters detachment, 61st MMB, said “I wouldn’t have thought of that,” in reference to the many resolutions the teams came up with, “Some of the things they think of to overcome these obstacles are out of this world.”

Another part of the training was the aerial resupply and drop, where a UH-60 Blackhawk from the Texas Army National Guard, based in San Antonio, picked up a humvee with a sling-load. The 418th Medical Logistics Company, based in Fort Sam Houston, gave briefings on the proper way to put a sling load together. Instructors from the 418th oversaw teams from each company as they rigged the humvee and hooked it up to the helicopter to familiarize them with the process.

“Logistics units need to know the procedures for receiving and sending sling-loads because it’s the way we send and receive supplies for homeland security and natural disaster events,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jamie L. Davison, first sergeant, 418th Medical Logistics Company, 61st MMB.

Overall, with the plethora of training the battalion undertook, there was no doubt they would be prepared for whatever mission they could be assigned.

“The troops did very well, they trained on their individual tasks, then rehearsed and executed the entire operation,” said Krogh, “It had a lot of moving parts, from the blood service to the headquarters as a multifunctional element, and it built confidence in everybody to run a simultaneous operation.”


blood donor
A Soldier from the 932nd Blood Support Detachment prepares a blood donor during the 61st Multi-functional Medical Battalion’s field training exercise at Camp Bullis, San Antonio, October 20 – 28.

sling load
A Soldier from the 582nd Medical Logistics Company, 61st MMB, based at Ft. Hood, guides a UH-60 Blackhawk from the San Antonio based US Army Aviation, US Army Texas National Guard, while Soldiers from the 418th Medical Logistics Company, based in Ft. Sam Houston, hook-up a Humvee to it’s sling-load during the 61st MMB’s training exercise at Camp Bullis October 20 – 28.

Leadership Reaction Course
Soldier’s from the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion attempt to maneuver an obstacle at Camp Bullis’s Leadership Reaction Course during the battalion’s field training exercise October 20-28.