Soldiers assigned to the Martin Army Community Hospital’s Decontamination Team kicked off the New Year with a weeklong training exercise Jan. 11 -15 designed for team- and skill-building. The team’s mission is to provide rapid patient decontamination capabilities in the event of a chemical or biological accident or incident in the area.
“This training came at the right time for us,” said MSG Freddie Polite, a preventive medicine NCO and the team’s NCOIC. “We have a lot of new team members and a regulatory directive to have a baseline evaluation. It was a good week and everyone got something out of it.” Polite said the week began with health screenings for the team members and issue of personal protective equipment used in decontamination operations before beginning classroom and hands-on training.
Leading the training was Patient Decontamination Instructor SGM(R) Mike Anastasio, with Battelle Memorial Institute, a private, nonprofit applied science and development company. Battelle trainers work with Department of Defense and other governmental organizations to meet standards prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“We come in and go through the unit’s organic equipment, we look at how it’s stored, how it works and take the team through a standard training program including an eight-hour (hazardous materials) operations course,” Anastasio said. “The HAZMAT has a hands-on test where the team has to demonstrate proficiency in meeting our goal of setting up the patient decontamination station and having it ready to accept patients within 20 minutes.”
Polite and team OIC CPT Mark Williams said this was the beginning of at least six training exercises for the team for the year. And the mix of academic and hands-on training would give the 26 members, pulled from departments across the hospital, a solid foundation of the latest information and tips for them to use to improve their processes.
“We’ll keep practicing with what we learned,” Polite said. “We’ll be separating our equipment to put it into storage in order, so the things we need first are at the front and that will help reduce our setup time.” Anastasio clocked the team’s final run, which included donning OSHA Level C protective equipment, setting up the water supply and decontamination tent, at 14 minutes.
From there, the team practiced decontamination procedures with both ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients and conducted an after-action review to discuss what went well and troubleshoot any challenges they encountered.
PFC Syra Johnson, a MACH medic, said this was her first experience on a decon team and felt the training would help them prepare for any chemical or biological accident and take care of patients who may have been exposed.
“It was a good week,” she said. “It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot.” Anastasio said the training also provided an immediate advantage to the hospital commander.
“We’ve gotten the team familiar with the equipment and they now have it stored in the best way,” he said. “They’ve identified anything they are missing and started a list of those ‘nice-to-have’ things. This week was not just about how to train and win, but about the equipment and training needed to make this a solid, world-class response team.”