CATOOSA, Ga. – Tucked away in the Georgia mountains, the historic
Catoosa training site owned by the Tennessee Army National Guard
sits quietly and unassuming. It was awake and bustling Oct. 30, 2014
during the first-of-its-kind joint-agency medevac training. This
unique training exercise organized by Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Duncan,
was different on many fronts - civilian aircraft were used, civilian
pilots led the training, and the Angel EMS Life Force helicopter
made a special appearance on the new landing zone (LZ), marked
earlier that morning.
Members of the Tennessee National
Guard teamed up with Erlanger Hospital Life Force, Catoosa County
Fire, EMS and Police for the first of its kind joint-agency medevac
training consisting of both classroom and hands-on training led by
Life Force Pilots, coordinated by Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Duncan, and
held in Catoosa, Ga., Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nicole
Smart, 118th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
As NCOIC of the Catoosa training site, Duncan takes
training and safety seriously.
“We are responsible
for the safety of those on the training site, so it's better
to prepare for injury than to hope it doesn't happen,” he
At a recent
conference Duncan attended, medevac training was the topic
of discussion. Without military air assets in the Catoosa
area, he got right to work designing a solution that
included his 15-soldier team, Catoosa County firefighters,
Life Force pilots, EMS, and police.
“We don't have
any military assets to provide medevac training, so we
teamed up with local forces and Life Force,” said Duncan.
“We're going over how to place an LZ the way they like it,
find alternate LZ locations, and how to package a casualty.
That is the primary goal. The secondary goal is to put faces
to names, because we don't want to meet for the first time
during an emergency.”
The day of training began in
the classroom led by Glen Suskind, Life Force paramedic. His
areas of focus were history, safety and important
statistics. Civilian air medical got its start after Vietnam
and took off in the '80s, which is also when Life Force was
established. Looking to do a few flights a month, the crew
ended their first year with more than 700 flights to
Erlanger Hospital. They offer service within a 20-minute
flight range on both sides of the Tennessee/Georgia border
and their pilots hold dual certification to provide care in
In true Southern hospitality fashion and
to show their appreciation for the training opportunities,
the hosting soldiers paid out of their own pockets to
provide breakfast for the training event. Bagels, doughnuts,
juice and coffee lined the two long tables. Everyone had a
hearty breakfast that morning before heading outside for the
second half, hands-on portion of the training.
goals for today were hands-on training for the soldiers,
face-to-face interaction with the agencies and follow-on
training with different scenarios in the future,” said
Emergency vehicles and their corresponding
team members lined the know distance (KD) range and 33
trainees from all agencies stood along the side as they
watched the Life Force bird make its landing. Shortly after
the four pilots made their egress for introductions, the
group quickly began climbing in and peering around the
aircraft to get a closer look. They looked like curious kids
as they bobbed and weaved in and out of the open doors.
The EC135, which doesn't currently have a military
equivalent, was the item on display. The back-loading doors
were opened and Suskind rolled out a stretcher, giving a
show-and-tell of his prized bird.
“The aircraft is
kind of like a flying ICU,” he said as he showed the big
features packed into the small space.
equipment on board, training is constant to keep the crew
sharp. Pilots must have three years of EMS experience and
five years of in-flight medical experience before being
considered for the Life Flight team as well as a 3,000
flight-hour minimum. Our pilot of the day, Mike, stopped
counting at the 14,000 hour mark.
bystanders had Q-and-A with the flight crew and had an
opportunity for all to see the bird up close and personal -
most said it was for the first time.
“We learned some
new things today – how to package a patient, that height and
weight is a huge factor because the bird is quite small, and
that EMS will show up first,” said Maj. Carter Honeycutt,
Catoosa training site OIC.
With a lot of training
options packed into a small site, Duncan used forward
thinking to create a unique training opportunity that bonded
his team with local emergency response teams.
small training site with plenty of opportunity for injury,
so our main task is to minimize the speed bumps from the
time someone gets injured to the time they get care,” Duncan
said. “When situations happen you don't rise to the
occasion, you fall back on training.”
beamed about the humble Duncan, calling him a one-man show
when setting up the training.
“We have units here
every weekend, so it's hard to get everyone together but we
did today, and it's important. You can never have too much
training,” he said.
The joint-service training event
was the first of its kind and one of many to come at Catoosa
and other National Guard training sites, which include
Smyrna, Myelin and Tullahoma. For those interested in
conducting a training of their own, the Catoosa crew says
they are happy to answer any questions and share their
By U.S. Army Sgt. Nicole Smart
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