U.S.-South Korea exercise tests medical evacuations, care
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. and South Korean armies this week continued to test their ability to evacuate their wounded troops in each other’s medical facilities, a capability that would be crucial during wartime.
On Thursday, the exercise included a helicopter evacuation that had been scheduled the day before but was canceled because of weather.
The exercise began around 9 a.m. Wednesday at an American battalion aid station in the Dongducheon region and involved eight soldiers — seven from the U.S. and one South Korean.
An ambulance from Company A, 168th Medical Battalion, took the mock casualties to the clinic at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, about a 30-minute trip.
Red Cloud medics simulated the medical treatment and paperwork tasks they would carry out in an actual mass-casualty evacuation, said Army Capt. Rachelle M. Beseman, 210th Fires Brigade surgeon.
Four of the mock casualties were to be taken to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek by helicopter before the flight was canceled Wednesday.
The other four were driven to South Korea’s Yang Ju Armed Forces Hospital, about 20 minutes from Camp Red Cloud. There, South Korean hospital staff performed triage and treated them, including taking them to surgery rooms and the intensive care unit, Beseman said.
Among the lessons learned was the importance of translators, she said.
That message came when a South Korean army lieutenant acting as a casualty followed her instructions to speak only Korean to the American medics at Red Cloud, Beseman said.
“She actually speaks very good English, but we told her to only speak Korean … the medics got all frustrated — ‘I don’t know what she’s saying,’ ” Beseman said. A Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army eventually was brought in to translate, she said.
Beseman said she will recommend to her successor that Americans bring translators to the South Korean medical facilities “if we do transition to war.”