News story

Airborne medics test skills for worldwide operations

Troops from Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment tested their techniques and the high-tech, lightweight equipment they will use to provide medical…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Troops from Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment tested their techniques and the high-tech, lightweight equipment they will use to provide medical care as part of the Airborne Task Force (ABTF) - the British Army’s rapid reaction force.

The exercise, which took place this week at the Army Medical Services Training Centre in York, saw the medics test to the limit their capabilities, kit and supplies.

A field hospital, including a resuscitation suite, operating theatre and intensive care ward, was set up to treat simulated casualties using equipment such as a portable digital X-ray machine and hand-held diagnostic scanners.

See the Gallery at Related Links for more pictures from the exercise.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Tracey, Commanding Officer of 16 Medical Regiment, said:

We offer a unique capability within the British military, not just the Army, of being able to deploy a surgical team by parachute.

To be ready for our role in the ABTF we have to move away from our recent experiences in Afghanistan.

We could find ourselves operating - in all senses of the word - in conditions that are hostile not just in terms of fighting, but the lack of depth to transport and medical resources and environmental conditions, such as sanitation and the prevalence of tropical disease.

This requires our medics to develop a different mindset to work without the safety net there is in Afghanistan of having what is probably the best trauma hospital in the world a quick helicopter ride away. This training has tested our ability to work light, fast and on our own.

The ABTF sees 16 Air Assault Brigade maintain a force ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice. 16 Medical Regiment provides Role 2 medical support to the ABTF, offering consultant-led life, limb and eyesight saving resuscitation and surgery as well as primary healthcare.

Specialist personnel in the unit including consultant orthopaedic surgeons, biomedical scientists and combat medical technicians.

Senior surgeon Lieutenant Colonel Paul Parker said:

This is a very flexible and hands-on facility. On operations, we will be working in an austere and resource-limited environment with patients coming in with major injuries at short notice.

This exercise is as realistic as it can be made. We only have the supplies we would be able to deploy with and treat casualties in real time.

A key piece of equipment is the Dragon digital X-ray machine, which was issued to 16 Medical Regiment in September 2011 after being used successfully in Afghanistan.

Radiographer Sergeant Dave Everiss said:

It’s the difference between film photography and a digital camera, giving us an X-ray in three seconds rather than ten minutes. It’s a lifesaving piece of kit that will make a massive difference to the speed we can give treatment.

Published 24 February 2012