The cookie settings on this website are set to ‘allow all cookies’. Leaving your settings to ‘allow all cookies’ means you consent to a website remembering your preferences and generally enhancing the user experience. If you prefer a website to not remember your preferences, you can change your settings at any time by changing the privacy settings of your browser.

Find out more about cookies >

Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



13 January 2016


The bright lights and temptations of Las Vegas were just a few miles away from the Adventure Training phase of the two week camp in October attended by over 100 members of the Field Hospital, which included rock climbing on Mount Charleston, as well as kayaking on the Colorado River, and mountain biking, horse riding and trekking in Red Rock Canyon.

Photo above – climbing on Mount Charleston

Challenging as it was in the searing heat, it was a rare opportunity to conduct Adventure Training activities in such a breath-taking environment! Indeed it was the furthest some members of the hospital had ever travelled!

The second phase of the exercise was based in the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute (NEMTI) in Camp Pendleton, California, a major US marine base a short distance (so near but yet so far!) from San Diego. NEMTI is a vital stop in the pre-deployment training continuum for American personnel deploying in support of Overseas Contingency Operations. 

Photo above – Commanding Officer 204 Colonel Mark Sheridan with OIC NEMTI Captain Patrick Paul 

Temperatures at the camp reached around 100 degrees even as early as the daily 0800hrs raising of the flag ceremony when everything stopped for the Stars and Stripes to be raised and the US national anthem played.

The first part of the training involved the setting up of a field hospital in the desert and running through scenarios in which 204 members had to cope with large numbers of traumatic battle injuries.

Photo above: NEMTI – raising the flag

The second phase was a visit by the whole Field Hospital to the Los Angeles County Hospital (LACH). This involved working with the very latest in medical technology with the world’s leading trauma experts, who also ran a bespoke 5 day training course in their medical training facility (which consisted of the whole of the old LACH building) for selected medical personnel from 204.

The last phase was a brutal training exercise, the Tactical Combat Casualty Course (TCCC) at Camp Pendleton. The TCCC provides personnel with the knowledge and skills to provide medical care in a combat environment, starting off in the classroom and moving in the final stage to a number of practical scenarios on the training area. 

Photo above – Col Hubert McAllister, Chairman RFCA with OIC NEMTI Captain Patrick Paul

Visitors, who included Col Hubert McAllister, Chairman of RFCA, were offered ear plugs as protection against the simulated gunfire as 204 personnel took part in the trauma treatment training exercise. From the moment it started it was as realistic as you could get – the first patrol was under fire in no time, taking several ‘casualties’ (dummies with various traumatic injuries typical of those treated in Afghanistan in recent years). The casualties were extracted to relative safety, although still being subjected to shouting, death metal music, strobe lighting and smoke in a darkened room whilst performing life saving treatments.

The next scenario was a surprise rocket attack, preceded only with a yell of “incoming”. The ensuing ordeal took participants through gunfire, explosions, water and mud to finally rescue and treat the victims of the blast.

Photo above – Maj Kate McLaughlin treats a casualty in the mud

Photo above – Maj Kate McLaughlin and Lt Col Tom Trinick treat a casualty in the mud

Captains Rachel McAuley & Kelly Elliott said "It is nothing like this in the City Hospital. There is no bluffing, the sound effects and the atmosphere made it very realistic."

Happily, when the exercise was over we did manage to go to San Diego for an evening where a Regimental Dinner was held at the spectacular venue of the landing deck USS Midway. (See main photo above)

Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride praised the contribution of the Army medical personnel from 204 to the health service in Northern Ireland, and commended the training opportunities at both LACH and NEMTI. Northern Ireland's Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle was also among the group of VIP guests who visited the US to observe the Field Hospital’s training.

Photo above – Col Hubert McAllister with Chief Medical Officer for NI Dr Michael McBride, and Chief Nursing officer Charlotte McArdle at the USS Midway.

Many members of 204 Field Hospital have served in Bosnia, Cyprus, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more recently Sierra Leone.

Article by Maj Christine Mitchell RAMC