Operation AGILE Medic, communication is key

US Air Force Medicine | 2024-01-16

By Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux

Airmen approach a UH-60 on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen approach a UH-60 on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CAMP BULLIS, TEXAS: During the first week of December 2023, the Air Force, Army and Marines collaborated in Operation AGILE Medic at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, providing medics with real-world experience in austere environments transporting patients and implementing hands-on MEDIC-X training.

Throughout the joint exercise, medics were faced with unexpected scenarios, where they had to communicate between the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team to Air Evacuation and, or, Critical Care Air Transport team, and vice versa.

“Communicating with everyone you interact with is critical,” stated Capt. Julie Thompson, 559th Trainee Health Squadron, registered nurse.

Airmen transport simulated patients on Dec. 4, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen transport simulated patients on Dec. 4, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen in the Critical Care Air Transport Team prepare a simulated patient for transfer on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint force exercise equipped medics with training in austere environments and limited resources, fostering readiness for diverse scenarios where they may need to provide patient care while efficiently managing resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen in the Critical Care Air Transport Team prepare a simulated patient for transfer on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint force exercise equipped medics with training in austere environments and limited resources, fostering readiness for diverse scenarios where they may need to provide patient care while efficiently managing resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen care for simulated patients on the way to an aircraft on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise involves hands-on scenarios in an austere environment, providing medics with crucial experience in communication and diverse medical skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen care for simulated patients on the way to an aircraft on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise involves hands-on scenarios in an austere environment, providing medics with crucial experience in communication and diverse medical skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen direct transferring simulated patients on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen direct transferring simulated patients on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen in the Critical Care Air Transport Team discuss patient care on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen in the Critical Care Air Transport Team discuss patient care on Dec. 6, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
A UH-60 comes into land with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
A UH-60 comes into land with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise immerses medics in the seamless process of transporting patients from the Expeditionary Medical Support unit to the En Route Patient Staging System team, and onwards to Air Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams, and vice versa. The hands-on experience ensures medics gain a comprehensive understanding of communication protocols, the critical timing for patient preparation, and the intricacies of the entire process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen transport simulated patients from a UH-60 on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise involves hands-on scenarios in an austere environment, providing medics with crucial experience in communication and diverse medical skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen transport simulated patients from a UH-60 on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. This joint force medical training exercise involves hands-on scenarios in an austere environment, providing medics with crucial experience in communication and diverse medical skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen lift a simulated patient into a Humvee on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint exercise prepared medics with realistic hands-on experience promoting joint medical readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)

Airmen lift a simulated patient into a Humvee on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint exercise prepared medics with realistic hands-on experience promoting joint medical readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)

A UH-60 lifts off with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint exercise equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
A UH-60 lifts off with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint exercise equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen transfer simulated patients to a C-130 on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint force medical training exercise equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
Airmen transfer simulated patients to a C-130 on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. The joint force medical training exercise equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
A C-130 lands with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. Active duty and reserve Air Force, Air National Guard, Army Reserve and Marines all collaborated in the joint force medical training exercise and equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)
A C-130 lands with simulated patients on Dec. 7, 2023, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, during Operation AGILE Medic. Active duty and reserve Air Force, Air National Guard, Army Reserve and Marines all collaborated in the joint force medical training exercise and equipped medics with training in various austere environments, both on-ground and in-air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux)

One of the positions Thompson held in the exercise was a Launch and Recovery Nurse. She explained they are responsible for collecting patients from EMEDS or the flight line, gathering critical patient information during transfer and communicating this to the next medical crew.

“We need to know the patient's condition: if they're bleeding and whether it's controlled, their current medications, stability, and whether they're breathing,” said Thompson. “This information is crucial for us to provide the necessary medical care during the transfer to or from EMEDS and ensures we have a clear understanding of the patient's status before moving them.”

Effective communication among teams is pivotal for ensuring proper patient care. Additionally, the complexity of managing limited resources requires quick thinking, especially in scenarios involving patient transportation and medical supply planning. Service members held diverse roles with opportunities to realize practical communication, encountering obstacles like ascertaining critical patient information over the noise of helicopter blades or other aircraft and a lack of proper communication tools in the field.

“This exercise interfaced with, active duty and reserve Air Force, Air National Guard on the fixed-wing C-130s and Marines directing aircraft landing,” said Senior Airman Genevieve Renshaw, 433rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron medic. “We also had Army Reserve coming in on black hawk helicopters. To approach those aircraft, we use hand signals and gestures to connect with each other and then quickly learn what their preferred method of communication is. As we continue to interface with those same branches and aircraft or sometimes even the same crew, we grow more efficient.”

During the exercise, Renshaw was a Bulldog, one of the leaders in the medical crew. She guided and directed her crew to and from ERPSS. They also consider how many vehicles and what manpower to take, and how to get everybody to the aircraft and back.

Training with numerous scenarios and patient transports throughout the exercise, provided medics ample opportunities to improve both their communication and medical skills. In addition to medical leaders that directed medical teams, medics helped drive to and from locations and assisted carrying litters of patients. Tech Sgt. John Coursey, 59th Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Squadron Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Pharmacy noncommissioned officer in charge, and a main Humvee driver for ERPSS in the exercise, shared his communication experience.

“When we first got here the communication was a struggle,” said Coursey. “We received training from the cadres and we also had some people that worked on an ERPPS team back at Lackland, so they helped us get up to speed. Halfway through the exercise our communication got a lot better and we improved as the exercise went on.”

The joint training exercise provided invaluable experience in a deployed environment, reinforcing the importance of efficient communication in every step of patient preparation, transfer, and treatment. Medics stand ready to deploy anytime, anywhere, ensuring fast and effective care for patients.