US Army, May 23, 2015 - CANADIAN FORCES BASE WAINWRIGHT, Alberta, Canada by Sgt Erin Quirke – The Oregon Army National Guard’s aeromedical evacuation unit, Charlie Company, 7-158th Aviation (C-7/158 AVN), traveled to Canada, April 29-May 20, to participate in the Maple Resolve 2015 training exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in Denwood, Alberta.
Maple Resolve is the Canadian Armed Forces’ annual, joint force training exercise and is the culminating collective training event to validate the Canadian Army’s High Readiness task forces. This year’s exercise was comprised of approximately 5,200 Canadian army soldiers, 700 Royal Canadian Air Force members, 700 U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops, and 150 British army soldiers.
The Canadian Maneuver Training Centre (CMTC) requested a Forward Support Medical Team (FSMT) to provide medical evacuation (medevac) operations in support of Maple Resolve this year. The Oregon Army National Guard provided three HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters and 26 personnel to support both medevac training, as well as real medical emergency evacuations during the exercise.
The FSMT, also known as a “Dustoff” team, consisted of 12 flight crew members and 14 additional support personnel to include operations, maintenance crews, an additional flight crew, as well as two weather technicians from the Oregon Air National Guard.
“The team has worked tirelessly to establish a working rapport with the Canadian forces,” said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Jeremy Andrews, an aeromedical evacuation pilot with C-7/158 AVN. “We’re establishing the procedures for how both real world and exercise medevac assets would be used.”
The Oregon Army Guard aviators logged more than 120 flight hours during the exercise, conducting 17 medevac training missions and multiple training flights for the exercise. They provided air support for simulated mass casualty situations, which tested the Canadian armed forces’ response time to field injuries and medevac procedures. The FSMT also conducted nine real-world emergency medical evacuations for injured personnel during the training exercise.
Upon arrival in Camp Wainwright, four Canadian flight medics were assigned to the FSMT. The Canadian medics integrated with the Oregon Guard team, participating in both real world and exercise medevac missions throughout the duration of the exercise.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Canadian army Cpl. Sean Gauthier, a medical technician with 5 Field Ambulance, Valcartier, Quebec. “It was very beneficial to see the difference in the medical protocols, and answered a lot of my questions on how to process a medical evacuation.”
In between medevac missions, the FSMT conducted aircraft inspections, maintenance and gave mission briefings to visiting dignitaries, including a visit from U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman. The team also taught Medevac 101 classes to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Maple Resolve was an outstanding success for the medevac unit,” said Lt. Col. Mark Ulvin, State Army Aviation Officer for the Oregon Army National Guard. “The exercise allowed Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers to interact with our international partners by introducing the critical lifesaving mission of the medevac HH-60M helicopter capabilities and their vital importance to the battlefield.”
Maj. Nathan Edgecomb, commander of C-7/158 AVN, said the chance to work with allied partner forces in a combined exercise helped to develop a solid working relationship and delivered invaluable training to all personnel involved.
“It afforded us an opportunity to train for a real-world deployment in a way that cannot be duplicated during a home-station annual training,” said Edgecomb. “Working with the Canadian forces was an incredible opportunity to hone our skills in both relationship and coalition building, as well as in our technical ability to provide the best medevac coverage possible.”
Oregon Soldiers in the FSMT said Exercise Maple Resolve enabled them to train 24-hours a day on mastering their skills in battlefield medicine and medical evacuation; skills they must perform instinctively on a moment’s notice when lives are on the line.
“Being a medic is not for everyone, but these people see us on their worst days,” said Oregon Army National Guard Maj. Sarah Wickenhagen, an aviation medicine nurse practitioner with 2-641st Aviation who served as the flight surgeon for the FSMT during Maple Resolve. “I work with incredible people who would all give their lives in the service of another. There is nothing better than that.”
That’s impression she hopes the Oregon Guard’s medevac unit made on the Canadian Armed Forces during Exercise Maple Resolve 2015.
Wickenhagen said she is proud to be part of a team that embodies the “Dustoff” legacy and remains true to the C-7/158 AVN unit motto to selflessly do whatever it takes “so that others may live.”