On Monday and Tuesday this week we got out of the classroom for the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) field exercise. I was the officer in charge of this two-day extravaganza. I forget now how I ended up in that position, but I remember being asked whether I wanted to be the class social officer or the officer in charge of the AEF field exercise, and the phrase “AEF field exercise” sounded pretty cool so I went with that.
As it turns out, it would have helped to have some kind of medical background. The AEF field exercise combines a number of separate events centered around a Medical Readiness Indoctrination Course (MRIC). The MRIC is a three-hour simulation of an actual combat field hospital. It is a required part of COT instruction—I guess because the Air Force wants its new nurses and doctors to have some exposure to real-world conditions before shipping off to Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the officer in charge of the entire exercise, I had to handle the logistics for getting every member of the class out to the exercise location (still on base, but away from the Officer Training School) with all of the required equipment and assigning people to tents. I also set a shower schedule. But my most important job was to figure out what role each member of Kelly Class would play in the MRIC.
This is where my prior medical training, had I any, would come in handy. Lacking that baseline knowledge, I leaned on other people to come up with a roster that seemed to work. We had doctors and nurses assigned to various departments, including triage, OR, ER, ICU, dental, mental health, and med/surge. I assigned lab techs to radiology. My pharmacists ran the pharmacy. And all of my other medical service corps personnel were doing patient tracking or overall operations control. Non-medical personnel—i.e., the jags and chaplains—staffed all the other positions needed for the simulation, such as patients, manpower (patient transport), and security.
The roster complete, we had an MRE breakfast (I had maple sausage, which wasn’t half bad) and headed out in school buses. The drive to the other side of the base took all of ten minutes. Once there, we assembled underneath a huge overhang. Echo flight ended up sitting in some bleachers at the back of the overhang and to one side, where were fully exposed to the chill wind and ice-cold drizzle it brought. So we were happy to get up and participate in the bag drop. Each of us had been given a list of what to bring for the two days, including a spare ABU, towel, shower shoes, two MREs, running shoes, boots, and a pad of paper and writing instrument. That done, we all got cots and moved into our tents. Each flight had two tents—one for each gender.
|Enjoying some MREs|
|Echo Flight arrives at Blue Thunder|
|Practicing our litter carry skills|
|Mmmm, more MREs!|
|Our litter carry team, self-dubbed "Echo One"|
We finally made it onto the Ropes Course at around 1100. I flew through as quickly as possible, loving every second. At the midway point I said hello to Snake Eyes, our flight commander—he spent the entire morning high up on one of the obstacles, advising each trainee and acting as a safety. I felt sorry for him because of the high winds and bitter cold. But he’s a trooper, and he pumped me up as I moved through.
From the Ropes Course we went to the Confidence Course, which is a huge wooden tower with a rock-climbing wall on one side; you rappel down the other. At the top of the tower you walk out onto 30-foot telephone pole called the toothpick because of how narrow it seems when you’re walking on it. After failing in my first attempt at the rock wall I made it to the top on my second, albeit by climbing the “easy” side of the wall. I then went up to the toothpick. I felt pretty confident all day, but I have to admit that it was a little scary up there, mainly due to the high wind that made everything seem to shake and that threatened to blow me right off and send me to my death.
|Me and Eldridge on the course|
|McGuire was my wingman for the Ropes Course|
|Echo Flight all geared up|
|This poor guy had to be rescued off the Ropes course|