Sgt. Dale Blad, left, 37, of Spokane, Wash., and Spc. Chris Minson, 22, of Orem, Utah, work with a “METI” patient at the Joint Multinational Training Command Medical Simulation Training Center on Tuesday.

Sgt. Dale Blad, left, 37, of Spokane, Wash., and Spc. Chris Minson, 22, of Orem, Utah, work with a “METI” patient at the Joint Multinational Training Command Medical Simulation Training Center on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — They are often rude or belligerent. But you’d be, too, if your job involved being poked with needles, having tubes shoved down your throat or getting your arms and legs hacked off in the name of medical progress.

Thirteen SimMans and a couple of their more highly valued “METIs” are the stars of the show at the Joint Multinational Training Command’s new Medical Simulation Training Center, which opened Tuesday at Grafenwöhr Training Area.

The $36,000 SimMans and $86,000 METIs are “human patient simulations” — computerized rubber-and-plastic replicas of the human body that medics use to hone skills for battlefield care of wounded soldiers.

The replica patients are hooked up to software that allows trainers to simulate a wide variety of combat wounds and medical conditions, according to Joe Aubihl, a civilian instructor at the facility.

The patients breathe and replicate the body’s internal organs. When their limbs are removed, they gush fake blood until a medic correctly applies a tourniquet. They can react to drugs, their mouths can lock shut and airways can be blocked, forcing medics to perform a “surgical cric,” which involves cutting an emergency airway in the patient’s replaceable rubber neck.

“You can set him up to have a collapsed lung and do a needle decompression of the chest, and you can use the FAST1 (First Access for Shock and Trauma), which is a device inserted into the patient’s chest to provide fluids when no intravenous sites are available,” Aubihl explained.

The METI (Medical Education Technologies Inc.) Emergency Care Simulator is more advanced than the Sim-man. This replica patient can blink and roll his eyes. His tongue swells up and his front teeth break out and block his airway if medics fail to insert breathing tubes correctly.

The METI has places to get a pulse and can receive intravenous fluids through removable skin that is replaced when it gets too many needle marks, Aubihl said.

Lt. Col. Horace Bowden, of the JMTC’s Combined Arms Training Center, said the Sim-men and METIs spend most of their time in four scenario rooms at the Medical Simulation Training Center. The center — one of 18 operated by the Army worldwide and the only one in Europe — offers training such as the Combat Life Saver course and Combat Medic Advanced Skill Training.

Instructors operate the software for the replica patients and pipe in battle sounds, smoke and light effects from a control chamber at the facility, he said.

The scenario rooms can be set up any way the instructors want, Bowden said. On Tuesday, one was set up as a triage area with two Sim-men including one with a missing leg. In another, medics had to deal with a mass casualty event with several Sim-men scattered through two rooms in large pools of fake blood.

“We are trying to get the Sim-men and METIs into the MRX rotations (Mission Rehearsal Exercises for units headed downrange) at Hohenfels,” said Bowden, adding that some of the devices are at Hohenfels this week with the Iraq-bound 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment.

Working with the replica patients can be unnerving for soldiers when they first meet them, according to Spc. Chris Minson, 22, of Orem, Utah, one of the first medics to train at the center.

“They are kind of creepy and hearing them talk is kind of different. They can tell you if they are about to throw up or having a hard time breathing. They can become belligerent and threaten to attack you or be rude,” said Minson, who serves with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

Another soldier training at the center, Sgt. Jerry Bryant, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., said he’d done cardiopulmonary resuscitation and treated sucking chest wounds and amputees in Iraq.

“The Sim-men are very realistic. The only difference is they can’t get up and walk away. Real casualties tend to roll around and move. But as far as the training goes, giving them real-world injuries is the best part of the [SimMans],” said Bryant, who works out of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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