CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, Japan -- Corpsmen and airmen traversed through jungle environment during the Jungle Medicine Combat Course July 10-20 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves.
The course instructors taught the service members jungle medicine, combat trauma, patient assessment and preventive medicine while challenging their small unit leadership abilities.
The corpsmen are with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 1st Bn., 8th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, as part of the unit deployment program; as well as 3rd Medical Bn. and 3rd Dental Bn., 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF; 7th Communications Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF; and the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
The airmen are with 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 18th Operations Group, 18th Wing.
The service members inhabited the jungle for 10 days to learn tactics and medical treatments for survival in such environments.
“We’re in such a unique environment in Okinawa,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class David B. Wright, a corpsman with 3rd Med. Bn. “This is one of the few places left in the military that we can train in jungle warfare and medicine.”
Military medical providers will not always have the luxury of working in a clean and sterile environment with all the supplies readily available, according to Wright, an Orlando, Florida, native. It is important to know how to perform proper medical treatment in more difficult settings and improvise when supplies are scarce.
The training kicked off with a class on the basics of jungle survival, such as identifying dangerous species of animals and plants native to the jungle climate, improvised splinting and stretcher constructing, and treating hypothermia and heat cases.
“We have to be aware in this type of environment (because of) the risks it poses to us during the training,” said Cmdr. Chris Alfonzo, the Division Surgeon for 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “They’re gaining skills that will be practical here and in combat theaters as well.”
This is the second time the Jungle Medicine Combat Course has been conducted at JWTC, according to Alfonzo. It is open for units to send volunteers to participate.
“This is an opportunity to bring any medical provider from any branch together to experience the training,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James P. McHale, an independent duty corpsman with JWTC. “It’s important to have better knowledge of how to stabilize patients in different environments, under different circumstances.”
The training gives the basics on jungle survival, but it is more focused on medicine than warfighting, according to McHale, a Fort Walton Beach, Florida, native. This training brought medical providers from different branches together to learn the same universal tactics for jungle survival.
Sailors and airmen practiced proper rope tying techniques for rappelling and sked stretchers to better familiarize them with hasty movements in rough terrain and quick patient evacuations.
“We’re going to be using these techniques for (search and rescue) missions, especially when a spine board is not needed,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Fischer, an Edmond, Oklahoma, native, instructor at JWTC and corpsman with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “As corpsmen, we are responsible for retrieving casualties, and it is important to know how to operate that equipment to remove them safely.”
All of the service members’ training was put to the test during the Combat Endurance Course. The course posed an assortment of obstacles that challenged them to use the tactics and skills learned to complete their mission.
“The endurance course is a 3.8 mile course with roughly 33 obstacles,” said McHale. “At the end of it, there is a mile-long stretcher carry. It is intended to build teamwork and endurance while maneuvering the patient through the rough terrain of the jungle.”
The corpsmen and airmen must get through combat before they are able to provide care to the service members in need, according to McHale. Training in a jungle environment will provide the knowledge that can later be passed down to other medical providers.
“It’s academic development and expanding medical skills outside of a traditional setting for (the service members),” said Alfonzo, a Pensacola, Florida, native. “It is a personal and psychological buildup dealing with the stressors out here. It helps them build resiliency that will help them in the field environment when they are encountering actual casualties.”