Operation AGILE Medic: Joint Forces Collaborate in Full-Spectrum Medical Readiness Exercise

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  • By Staff Sgt. Kelsey Martinez

In early December 2023, military personnel from the Air Force, Army, and Marines joined forces for Operation AGILE Medic (OAM) at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas. The exercise united over 100 physicians, nurses, medics, and support staff who collaborated in various medical components, including Point-of-Injury/Care Under Fire (POI/CUF), Ground Surgical Teams (GST), Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS), En Route Patient Staging System (ERPSS), Aeromedical Evacuation (AE), and Critical Care Air Transport Teams (CCATT).

The synergy of multiple functions in this exercise facilitated the identification of critical elements such as cross-communication, interoperability, healthcare delivery, and training gaps. By addressing these aspects, the participants were able to enhance their individual preparedness as well as discover opportunities to support each other across various healthcare aspects. 

"Early exposure to full-spectrum military medicine is crucial for effective mission readiness," said Col. Luis Berrios, exercise director. "Providing this knowledge and experience is imperative to ensure confidence and readiness when faced with rapid deployment timelines."

As a commander, Berrios observed that less-experienced personnel might not fully grasp their role in Air Force medicine. Exercises like these offer valuable experience and help individuals recognize their significant contributions. 

"The immersive nature of these exercises allows participants to gain a profound understanding of their roles during deployment and are crucial in preparing individuals for the challenges they may face in real-world scenarios," he said. "Regular conduct of these exercises is vital for continuous readiness."

Stress is deliberately introduced during exercises to foster critical thinking and adaptability under pressure. For individuals in roles requiring specific medical skills, consistent practice becomes paramount. Regular skill reinforcement prepares service members to deploy effectively, allowing seamless execution of tasks in a real-world environment. 

"By challenging individuals to think outside the box, we aim to provide them with a solid foundation," emphasized Berrios. "This ensures that when they are deployed, they possess the skills and mindset needed to navigate high-pressure scenarios effectively."

Being a 'ready medic' signifies comprehensive preparedness to serve as combat-ready healthcare professionals. This readiness is achieved through core training and supplemented with additional training modules. 
"Participants displayed high motivation and sustained engagement throughout the exercise," he said. "We adopted a phased approach—crawl, walk, and run—to guide them through the intricacies of their roles."

During the crawl phase, the focus was on imparting the essential knowledge needed for their respective responsibilities. Progressing into the walk phase introduced more challenges, gradually pushing the boundaries of capabilities. By the time we reached the run phase, participants were exposed to complex scenarios, testing their ability to respond under stress explained Berrios. 

"It was fascinating to witness the progression throughout the exercise…participants not only embraced the challenges but also demonstrated remarkable adaptability and problem-solving skills," he shared. "This collective attitude of adaptation, overcoming obstacles, and maintaining high morale was a testament to the effectiveness of the training approach and the dedication of each participant."

Senior Airman Canon Moore, an administrative technician and sole representative from the 59th Medical Specialty squadron, shared insights from the Patient Administration Division (PAD). 

"In PAD, we collaborate with Command Control (C2), overseeing patient movements and ensuring a comprehensive understanding of their status within our facility," Moore explained. "Our close partnership with Emergency Response Personnel (ERPs) allows us to anticipate incoming patient numbers and receive timely updates on their estimated time of arrival."

Operation AGILE Medic's scenarios mirror challenges in operational environments, preparing medical personnel for the unpredictable nature of their duties. 

"It was rewarding for us to showcase the active and pivotal role we play," said Moore, highlighting the significance of their contributions beyond paperwork and computer screens. "The collaboration with other units emphasized the importance of our role, especially when sought for expertise in patient care and movement."

Moore emphasized the training's eye-opening nature, fostering a collaborative environment and enhancing teamwork and camaraderie. OAM's scenarios are meticulously crafted to mirror the challenges encountered in operational environments. This realism prepares medical personnel for the unpredictable nature of their duties.

"Working in a hospital provides a sense of familiarity; however, in the deployed environment we experienced, organization was not a given," said Moore. "This stark contrast served as a valuable lesson, emphasizing the importance of preparation, adaptability, and resiliency."

This collaborative endeavor not only strengthened the participants' capabilities but also underscored the importance of unified efforts in achieving a heightened state of mission readiness.
"It was rewarding for us to showcase the active and pivotal role we play," said Moore, highlighting the significance of their contributions beyond paperwork and computer screens.

The emphasis extended beyond individual tasks to cultivate multi-capable Airmen—individuals capable of seamlessly stepping into various roles, ensuring mission continuity. 

"The camaraderie formed during the exercise was truly exceptional. Despite being strangers initially, we left as a close-knit group of friends” he shared.  “Knowing that I can trust them with my responsibilities, just as they can trust me with theirs, is invaluable."