CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- After 1,050 patients, 400 surgical cases, and 100 helicopter rescues, the Marines and sailors of Taqaddum Surgical still had one important thing to do before boarding their flights home.
"(The mass casualty drill) lets them (replacements) know how chaotic things can get," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Oscar M. Morales, 24-year-old section leader for the Shock Trauma Platoon with Taqaddum Surgical.
Before the Marines and sailors of Taqaddum Surgical leave, they are required to train their replacements. A "mass casualty" drill shows oncoming corpsmen and Marines the fast-paced stress experienced when more than 20 patients arrive in less than 30 minutes.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua W. Bromley, a corpsman with Taqaddum Surgical said that corpsmen should "never go complacent, because you never know what can come through that door." Service members in the exercise treated many different simulated injuries, varying from minor to fatal.
"Just because (a service member) dies, you can't stop, there are going to be more casualties," said Bromley, a native of Gosnel, Ark.
Mass casualty training is important; you can see it on television, you can read about it or hear about it, but until you actually experience it, you cannot comprehend it, said Lt. Cmdr. Mark T. Gould, a 42-year-old orthopedic surgeon with Taqaddum Surgical.
"They're going to treat the first injured Marine or sailor or soldier who comes through that door, and they're going to be ready for it," continued Gould, a native of Cooperstown, N.Y. Gould and the other featured surgeons all expressed the pivotal role corpsmen play in their mission.
"What makes this place run," said Navy Capt. H. R. Bohman, "is the corpsman. They are the heart and soul ... we can't do this without them."
"This exercise is all about the corpsman, they are the backbone of everything that goes on here," said Gould.
The training taught the corpsman to be flexible, to gain confidence with the equipment, and to adjust to small, crowded work areas, said Morales. Morales, who served previous tours with Marine infantry, said exercises like the mass casualty drill help arriving corpsmen gel as a team.
"The more they work together, the more they know the idiosyncrasies each (service member) has," said Navy Capt. Chuck L. Blankenship, general surgeon with Taqaddum Surgical. Blankenship, a native of Texarcana, Texas. said knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses helps grow a bond between corpsman.
"You cannot do this job, you cannot take care of these patients, without being a team," said Gould.
This training emphasizes dealing with significant injuries and bad outcomes, in order to develop a bond together, said Bohman, a 57-year-old Galesburg, Ill., native, and Taqaddum Surgical's chief of professional services.
"Since we've been here, it's just training, training, training," said Morales, a native of Northridge, Calif, who commended the outgoing group for their effort. The old team arrived five months ago and worked until their change of command ceremony Sept. 6, the same day of the mass casualty drill.
Instead of quitting when relieved, the outgoing group stayed to help us train, said Morales.
"We've taught them everything we've seen here, and how to do it," said Bromley, "there's nothing that can walk through that door that we're not prepared for." No matter how minor or major the injury, Bromley added, the corpsmen will always have a drive to help.
"They always rise to the occasion," said Gould, "everyone knows how committed a corpsman is, and the tradition of the corpsmen reflect that." From hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima, to the desert warfare of Iraq, the corpsmen demonstrate that drive to support our war-fighters.
"If you're a (service member) and you get hurt, there's a great chance that you are going to be saved if you get to a place where there's a navy corpsman, and a navy medical team like this," said Blankenship.
"The lights are on, the sign is out, if you have a problem, come to us," said Gould.
Families at home can rest a little easier. Taqaddum Surgical is always ready.