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NEWS | June 12, 2024

Wisconsin Guard Black Hawk Unit Conducts Mass Casualty Exercise

By Vaughn Larson, Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

SUMMIT, Wis. - The Wisconsin Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, carrying a medevac crew and notional patients from its base in West Bend, circled the helipad site before landing at Aurora Medical Center-Summit, completing a simulated medical transport in less than an hour.

The flight, part of a mass casualty exercise with emergency and trauma center medical staff from Aurora Medical Centers in Summit and Green Bay, represents a journey that began many months ago.

“This is the first step for us — crawl stage — to be able to understand and figure out all the details how to transfer patients safely,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Furbee, a standardization instructor for the flight paramedics with the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment crews in West Bend.

Part of the day’s training included Aurora medical staff figuring out how to receive three patients simultaneously from the helipad.

“The procedure’s a bit different,” said Dr. Christopher George, an emergency physician at Aurora-Summit. “It’s good practice for both of us on how we receive patients as well as how they bring in patients. In this case, we went out to get the patients — typically, they would land and would be coming to us. Multiple patients come in on one Black Hawk, as opposed to Flight For Life, which brings one patient at a time. So it’s a slightly different dynamic.”

In a military setting, litter bearers are waiting for the Black Hawk arrival to transfer patients from the helicopter to the field hospital. With a civilian air ambulance, the flight crew brings the patient into the emergency room.

The training scenario was a building collapse north of the medical center. Aurora-Summit is a Level 2 trauma center, which can handle most medical injuries. Injuries suffered by the notional patients brought to Aurora-Summit by Black Hawk included a broken neck, hand amputation and burns. One patient, a medical mannequin, would later be transported to Aurora BayCare in Green Bay to simulate a medical transfer between facilities.

Sgt. Stephanie Ziety, a crew chief with the West Bend unit, played the role of a patient with an unstable C-spine fracture — a broken neck.

“They did a trauma assessment,” Ziety said when she was brought into the emergency and trauma center, “to make sure there wasn’t any additional trauma, make sure my vitals were good. They simulated getting images and results from that, so the next step would have been being seen by a neurosurgeon.”

Ziety has been with the Wisconsin National Guard since 2011 and part of a medevac crew since 2018.

“It’s another opportunity for me to see what goes on with patients in the back of an aircraft,” she said.

Maj. Sarah Latza, operations officer with the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in West Bend, said this training was the brainchild of Furbee and Maj. John Jenkins, an aeromedical assistant with the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

“They’ve gotten with the Aurora medical community here in Wisconsin, and this exercise actually has grown into what it is today,” Latza said.

George said there have been multiple drills and teaching opportunities with the National Guard.

“The more times you interact with the same people, it gets more comfortable and easy,” he said, “and then the small details are much easier to do and you can focus on the big things because everybody’s comfortable with how the procedure works.”

Furbee acknowledged that it is not routine for an Army National Guard Black Hawk to transport patients to a civilian hospital, but that underscores the need to train for the possibility.

“Throughout the year we get called for several search and rescue missions — primarily lost hikers, lost children, things of that nature,” Furbee said. “So this is good practice for us to be able to figure out the processes and procedures and techniques to accomplish that.”



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