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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



28 June 2016

Two of 502’s RAF Reserve Medics experienced first-hand what it is like to operate as part An RAF medevac and emergency response team, during a challenging course both on the ground and in the air. AC Webb and AC Mack took part in the five day long Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) Course which took them to RAF bases at Brize Norton, Odiham and Abingdon.  

Taskings included both learning and assisting to make the exercise as real as possible for all involved.  Each day they were tasked to prepare mannequins as casualties, following course scripts with the injuries for the student scenarios, taken from actual casualty situations from Afghanistan.  This involved dressing the casualties in uniforms and preparing the injuries using make up kits to replicate wounds such as gunshot, fragmentation, fracture and amputation wounds. The mock casualties being evacuated by MERT had been given immediate treatment in the field and this involved applying Combat Tourniquets (CAT)s and field dressings. These were not always applied correctly in order to test the students and replicate actual casualty conditions.  Due to a limited number of mannequins, the challenge included preparing casualties accurately in a timely manner, so injuries were recognisable to the students, ensuring the day could flow seamlessly.

This was particularly challenging when the simulations took place within a Chinook helicopter, as three casualties were being treated at the same time.  Both 502 Sqn Medics also acted as stretcher bearers, loading casualties on and off the aircraft and role playing to replicate different scenarios which had actually happened in Afghanistan. When the scenarios were out in the field, the challenges also included retrieving casualties in mine-fields using marked safe routes.

On the days when helicopters - both Chinook and Merlin, were used, the 502 Medics gained an insight to the conditions inside the aircraft, along with an appreciation of what a noisy and limited space the Medical Team has to work in, especially with multiple casualties onboard. Being involved in role play, as casualties, highlighted the importance of good communication between all members of the team during the transport of multiple casualties with changing needs. 

AC Welsh said; “For us it was an amazing experience to get the chance to fly in a Merlin helicopter and see first hand how the Medical Team work within a moving aircraft. It was also a great learning experience for us, regarding aircraft awareness and safety. We were both surprised by the force felt by the downwash of the helicopter. It made us appreciate the role of the Force Protection Team guarding the helicopter against any attack when boarding casualties and also the importance of searching casualties, who may be hostile.  Assisting on the MERT course was a great experience, as I really got an insight into the challenges faced by staff evacuating many different types of casualties from dangerous environments and then having to provide emergency care to multiple casualties in a turbulent, noisy and cramped helicopter. I was really impressed by the intense and rigorous training undertaken by MERT staffs, as there were two assessors to every student on the course. This made me appreciate the really high standard to which the team is trained”. 

AC Mack was also impressed; “I found assisting on the MERT Course an amazing experience. MERT is a gold standard tri-service approach to providing emergency care to multi-national servicemen, civilian adults and children as well as enemy casualties. Having acted as a casualty on ground-based and in-flight simulations, I can appreciate the endless list of challenges which the MERT staff has to contend with, that no documentary can portray. MERT can be sent into any type of situation to evacuate casualties, with a variety of injuries and provide a high standard of life saving medical care. You can be assured that if you or any of your colleagues have to be evacuated in a medical emergency, you will be in the best of hands.”

Overall it was a great experience for both RAF Reserve Medics to spend five days working alongside regular and reserve personnel providing support on the course to help enhance the learning experience of the students being trained to join such an important medical team. Both are fairly junior members of 502 Sqn with no previous military service who are greatly enjoying being part of the RAF Medical Reserves – which teaches them resilience and leadership, amongst many other skills, which will add to their abilities when returning to their jobs back in the NHS.