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AF Reserve medics stay sharp with Exercise Avian

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga.(AFNS) -- Approximately 100 Reserve Airmen from the 413th Aeromedical Staging Squadron out of Robins Air Force Base, Ga., traveled to Dobbins Air Reserve Base Aug. 4-6, 2017, to participate in the first Exercise Avian.

The exercise trained 413th ASTS members on their ability to medically and administratively prepare patients for flight in a deployed environment—a process known in the medical world as an en-route patient staging system.

“What an aeromedical staging squadron does is receive stable patients, continue to maintain them and transport them out of the theater as soon as possible,” said Lt. Col. Rafael Andino, the 413th ASTS commander. “We staged this exercise in order to ensure that we would be prepared as a unit to perform our wartime function.”

In addition to assessing and treating patients during the exercise, the medical teams responded to a variety of other scenarios, ranging from reacting, to enemy attacks, to engaging with news media outlets and distraught family members. This gave the reservists a chance to train in simulated real world situations to improve their job skills, while keeping them on their toes in other areas.

“Well, for us, we tell people, ‘You understand your role on paper. You understand your role in concept,’” said Lt. Col. Mable Smith, the 413th ASTS chief of nursing service. “So, now, this is your [opportunity] to actually put it in practice. We look to see how people handle problems when something like an unexpected situation comes up. We look to see where they’re functioning, we give them guidance, we give them advice, and we look at their critical-thinking ability and their overall effectiveness.”

The unit also linked up with the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and 94th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron out of Dobbins ARB to further push a team concept. The 413th ASTS trained alongside the two units to ensure a more realistic experience. According to Andino, it showcased how members could easily be placed on deployments to perform the same tasks with medical professionals from other units who have all been trained to the same standards.

Another important point of the exercise was to allow newer Reserve Airmen a chance to see what a deployment is all about.

“Most of Air Force Reserve ground-medical units have folks who have a mix of years of experience,” Andino said. “Some have deployed—most have not in this generation. So the goal of this exercise was to pair experienced people with our non-experienced, younger folks and teach them how we get our injured patients from the battlefield back home safely.”

For Senior Airman Kimia Marion, a 413th ASTS medical service technician, the experience was new and insightful.

“It was very eye-opening,” Marion said. “I was a patient during the exercise, so I got to see everything from an outside perspective. It was actually a great experience to see what I would be doing when I actually can start, since I’m fresh in.”

Marion, who cross-trained from administrations, has only been a part of the unit since November 2016.

“It really accelerated my want to actually jump in,” she explained. “At first, I was more nervous and shy, but now seeing everything, I want to do it. I want to be the one making the calls, writing the paperwork or checking out a patient.”

The 413th ASTS hopes to collaborate with more aeromedical staging squadrons throughout the country in future iterations of Exercise Avian, but Andino said he was pleased with the support he got from Dobbins ARB.

“We’ve been extremely impressed with the Silver Flag facility here at Dobbins Air Reserve Base,” he stressed. “They have gone above and beyond to provide us with an outstanding learning environment in which we could practice our skill-trade craft. We couldn’t be more appreciative to them, to the staffs and to all the members who came out.”