Reservists learn to provide medical care in combat simulation

An annual exercise held Sunday in Charlottetown allowed reservists to test their skills.

'I believe that this helps better prepare the people to deploy'

The event gives medics an opportunity to practise their skills in a high-stress environment. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The sound of gunshots rang out inside the Queen Charlotte Armoury in Charlottetown on Sunday morning.

Fog covered the room as medics from the Prince Edward Island Regiment attempted to rescue wounded allies from the battlefield, yelling over the gunfire and the sound of planes overhead.

It's an annual exercise hosted by the Prince Edward Island Regiment. Held alongside students and instructors from Holland College, the training exercise is designed to give reservists hands-on experience in administering care under fire.

The exercise is part of an event that spans two days. This is the sixth year the P.E.I. regiment has hosted the event. 

It simulates the conditions that reservists could experience in the field, said Maj. Trevor Jain, 36 Brigade surgeon.

"A lot of times medical folks deploy humanitarian assistance in less kinetic activity areas," he said. "But a lot of times we're in combat situations where we have to provide care to our allied forces and our own soldiers on the battlefield."

Jain said it's a popular event for the reservists.

Medics had to rescue allies from a simulated battlefield and provide treatment. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

"The troops really enjoy it. They get to practise the skills that they've learned, get to practise the skills that they've honed and they really enjoy this weekend because they get to bring it all together."

When you're actually put in the situation and you have to use your skills right then and there, I believe that this helps better prepare the people- Officer Shellie Poole

Petty Officer First Class Shellie Poole,  from Canadian Forces Health Services Centre in Ottawa, participated in the exercise in the past and came back this year to observe it.

"I believe that it helps build the confidence that you need with your skills," she said.

"It's good to do all the training and read the books and do all that, but when you're actually put in the situation and you have to use your skills right then and there, I believe that this helps better prepare the people to deploy."

Once out of the line of fire, medics had to perform the appropriate treatment on victims. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

For the first time this year, regiments from off-Island came to observe the training exercise and see how the Eastern operations work. Jain said there's such an interest in the course because of its unique nature. 

Off-Island observers

Maj. Lyndsey Fleming, with the New Hampshire Air National Guard, came to observe.

"A lot of medics in the reserve, it's just like in the Air Force the United States ... they don't operate as medics every day. They're not exposed to this level of stress every day and so they don't see a lot of these training opportunities.

"So this has been tremendous for us to see how Canada does things a little bit differently and it kind of tries to integrate with their civilian partners to get the most out of the training that's available."

Maj. Lyndsey Fleming says medics in the U.S. don't get this kind of training, and she hopes to bring reserves to the event next year. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Capt. Michelle Mastrobattista, with 157th Medical Group from the New Hampshire, said it's important that reservists are trained in this fashion. 

"That's how medics build muscle memory and it's through that training that they can react appropriately in the safest, quickest manner when they're performing care under fire."

Fleming said she hopes to be back in future.

"We'll definitely look at implementing similar opportunities to our medics. We'd like to get our medics up here again next year when they do this again."

More P.E.I. news