Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - Medical and support staff aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) took part in a four-day mass casualty drill July 9-12 as a part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014.
The Mercy team participated in a wide-ranging drill which included mock surgeries performed on state-of-the-art suits that simulate traumatic injuries to internal organs, receiving patients via the ship's two Fassmer Life/Tender Boats for the first time and treating a number all with the intent of maintaining mission readiness and sharing ideas with partner nation military medical personnel.
"The purpose of the training was to demonstrate our capabilities with the different training tools we have," said Lt. Katherine Chiu, division officer of the operating room ward aboard Mercy. "For instance, we are showing our SimMan 3G mannequins, adult life support mannequins and cut suits in certain situations to demonstrate our capabilities and our education in medical situations."
During the initial day of the drill, medical officers and hospital corpsmen shared ideas and methods to international military medical personnel on the triage system, advanced cardiac skills, surgical procedures, Mercy's protocols, and ways to diagnose patients, among other things.
"The important takeaway here is that we are not teaching, but sharing," said Lt. Jessica Naranjo, division officer for main operating room aboard Mercy. "We're sharing the approach we have toward medicine in the United States. We are showing our partner nations how we train."
Attendees of the drill included military medical personnel from Canada, China, the Philippines and Singapore.
The diversity of the attendees made an impression on one hospital corpsman from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) who was invited to take part in the joint training alongside the other nations.
"All the technology and the real-life simulations, the multinational exposure, especially to nations I've never met before, it's been quite an experience," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Chad Saunders, NAVELSG. "Working with these partner nations' medical personnel and learning alongside them has been one of the highlights of this drill for me."
To prepare for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort, Mercy's crew managed a simulated event in which patients were transported on tender boats from an island to the ship after suffering injuries during a hurricane.
"We proved that the boat transfer of patients can go relatively smooth," said Capt. Mark Flynn, the training team leader for the drill. "It was the first time we used real patients and moved them physically off the boats onto the Mercy. No one was dropped, which is always a good thing, and they all made it successfully onto the Mercy and were treated for their injuries."
Flynn said the exercise helped team leaders evaluate how well Mercy's crew can manage patients arriving by boat.
"We learned a lot of lessons from this drill, both good ones and ones we need to work on, but things like this are how we get better at what we do," Flynn added.
The patient boat transfer exercise was in partnership with the state of Hawaii and civilian and military organizations at sea and on land.
This year's RIMPAC marks the first time in the exercises history that hospital ships have participated. PLA(N) hospital ship Ark Peace (T-AH 866) and Mercy are scheduled to hold more mock disaster relief drills and exercises sea.
Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the California Coast and the Hawaiian Islands.