JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The highest ranking enlisted member in the Department of Defense spent the afternoon at the Medical Education and Training Campus, or METC, during a visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston July 17th.
Command Sgt. Major John Wayne Troxell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the senior noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, met with Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Barr, METC senior enlisted advisor, and several METC instructors at the Slagel Dining Facility, where they ate lunch and engaged in constructive discussions.
“I was highly impressed,” stated Troxell about his meeting with METC instructors. “During the luncheon, sitting with those mid-range, noncommissioned officers and petty officers, I was just highly impressed with not only their level of understanding of the current operational environment and their role in it, but also their level of understanding about what they were doing to develop trained medical professionals to come behind them for employment in the field or in hospitals or on ships.”
After lunch, Troxell arrived at METC headquarters where a mission video and brief were presented by Barr and Keith Johnson, METC deputy commandant, to explain more about the medical training that enlisted Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard students receive on the joint training campus.
At METC, service consolidation in the classroom is the norm. More than half of METC’s 49 programs of instruction are combined with students from two or more services. However, outside of the classroom, students continue to reinforce their service’s culture, customs and standards.
Following the brief, Troxell recalled a question that came up during the lunch with METC instructors, asking why, since they are training jointly as medical professionals, they are not all wearing the same uniform?
“We will always be joint warfighters so providing medical education in the joint environment is the right direction,” he said.
However, he also explained that there are some things that military professionals will do in their particular service that may be different in the other services.
“There has to be service identity for the particular way we employ those service’s forces, Troxell added. “In the end, we will fight as a joint multinational force, but it’s imperative, especially when we organize, equip and train forces for the particular service, that service identity is important.”
Barr explained to Troxell how METC trains its approximately 5,500 students on any given day in its consolidated and single-service programs, the efficiencies gained with consolidation and where there is room for more, programmatic accreditations and METC’s initiative to enable its students to earn college credits and certifications through partnership programs with colleges and universities across the country.
“It’s all about training for the mission. That’s a priority, but we really want to educate for a lifetime as well,” Barr said. “We want to give students a skillset so that when they leave the military they have something to lean back on or be on track for a degree.”
Barr pointed out that education is important to today’s generation.
“With our college partnerships throughout the country, that’s an opportunity for a Soldier, Sailor or Airman to get some more education. If you were to go into a new class here and ask the students why they came into the military, 60 percent of them will tell you that they joined for educational opportunities. So that education is important.”
After the presentation, Troxell toured two METC programs. Starting at the Biomedical Equipment Technician, or BMET, program's field training site, instructors demonstrated a virtual interactive classroom modality that the program is testing as a training tool for repairing Expeditionary Deployable Oxygen Concentration System, or EDOCS, units. Master Sgt.
Wesley Reid, Army service lead for the BMET program, explained the purpose for utilizing VR technology in the classroom.
“This VR environment allows students to learn at their own pace and review the learning objectives as often as needed,” Reid said. “This has received very positive feedback from the students that have experienced the lessons. It includes an increase in troubleshooting confidence and functional knowledge of the equipment.”
Reid also added that the module can be shared remotely with BMETs who are geographically separated from a physical EDOCS unit to train on. It can also decrease low-value “down-time” between hands-on experiences, improve information retention rates, yield improved test scores and, ultimately, impact graduation rates.
Master Sgt. Christian Bond, a BMET instructor, shared that another benefit of the modality is cost effectiveness.
“The virtual environment multiplies the available resources within the DoD inventory without increasing costs,” he explained.
Troxell was shown an actual EDOCS device and explained its function before departing to the Department of Combat Medic Training, or DCMT, program.
At DCMT, Troxell observed combat medic students conducting an exercise in the Combat Trauma Patient Simulator, or CTPS.
The CTPS is constructed on one side to resemble a Middle Eastern marketplace in the aftermath of an explosion set off by a suicide bomber. The “casualties,” which are life-like manikins called human patient simulators, appear to have received several traumatic injuries including amputations and gunshot wounds.
The combat medic trainees assessed the injuries and took actions to treat them while sirens blared, the room filled with smoke, and the lights were dimmed.
“This is where we want students to make their mistakes,” said Don Parsons, DCMT program director. “They can’t harm a manikin if they do something wrong, and they’ll get the experience they need to be effective on a real patient.”
Troxell was impressed by the realistic training conditions.
“When we talk about being prepared for major combat I have not seen many facilities or programs that come so close to true combat conditions. I had chills going up and down my spine because I felt like I was back in Diyala Province in Iraq or in the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan.”
He added that, when being prepared and ready for what we have to do to defend our nation and our way of life, “facilities like that go a long way in building the sets and repetitions that our medical professionals need to be prepared to treat those kinds of wounds and casualties in real life.”
The visit concluded with Troxell watching as combat medic students conducted casualty triage training during a simulated mass casualty situation in an outdoor environment. Students utilized all the life-saving intervention skills that they learned during the field craft phase of the course as they worked on manikins and each other for a realistic training experience.
Troxell said the visit exceeded his expectations. The key reason for that was because of the level of professionalism, the leaders specifically, the non-commissioned officers, and also the instructors and staff.
“One of the things I talk about all the time, and the Chairman does too, is that our greatest competitive advantage over any adversary is our people,” Troxell said.
“Specifically within our people is our noncommissioned officer and petty officer corps who are the backbone of our military. The NCOs and petty officers I met with at METC were truly indicative of that greatest competitive advantage.”