U.S., French partners hone medical evacuation readiness in Djibouti
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti— U.S. Navy Sailors with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and members of the French Air Force Tactical Airlift Squadron 88 participated in the first bilateral medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) exercise at a Seabee humanitarian assistance construction site in the Djibouti’s Arta region on July 19 and 20.
To kick off the exercise scenario, a Seabee simulated falling off a ladder and suffering multiple lacerations and injuries. Several others rushed to his aid and immediately began conducting tactical combat casualty care procedures.
In deployed environments, it is essential for military personnel to be well versed in tactical combat casualty care. A quick response by personnel to attend to the injured and care for critical wounds can be the difference between life and death.
For the past several months, Seabees have been working diligently to construct a medical facility near a small village in the outskirts of Djibouti City. Due to the construction site’s remote location and the unfortunate fact that injuries on a construction sites may happen, this exercise helped set the stage for an opportunity to work with French forces for MEDEVAC.
MEDEVAC is the timely and efficient movement and en route care provided by medical personnel to wounded individuals needing to be evacuated from a battlefield or from the scene of an accident to a medical facility using medically equipped ground vehicles or aircraft.
“Should MEDEVAC be needed at that site, it takes about an hour or an hour and a half of ground travel time depending on the type of vehicles you’re driving,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Christopher Joseph, operations officer from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, a maneuver unit of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. “If something were to happen, depending on the severity of the injuries, ground transportation may not be feasible.”
The exercise also required the coordination of multiple agencies on Camp Lemonnier to include: the Joint Operations Center, Personnel Recovery Control Center, Emergency Medical Services and the Fire Department.
“This [exercise] is a good opportunity for all agencies involved to practice their roles and responsibilities,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Christopher Venissat, intelligence officer from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, a maneuver unit of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
Once the injured Seabee’s minor wounds were treated and he was mobilized for MEDEVAC, a French Air Force Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopter landed in a nearby dirt field for loading.
“We were dealing with a Seabee who suffered a compound fracture to his femur, spinal injuries and several lacerations on his arms,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Rojas, who gave initial treatment at the simulated accident site. “We addressed the issues, relocated the patient to the casualty collection point and made the call for assistance to get the patient to a facility where he could receive medical care.”
French medical personnel assisted Rojas, through the assistance of a French language interpreter, with patient transport to the aircraft. The SA 330 Puma helicopter took off within minutes of the injury and headed toward Camp Lemonnier where emergency medical personnel were on standby to receive the casualty.
“Exercises like this are important because, if the situation should arise, you don’t want to fail your fellow team members,” said Rojas. “Working with our international partners and their assets helps ensure that no matter the circumstance, a patient will receive medical treatment as soon as possible.”