Annual Training in the MN Army National Guard

Enlistment in the Army National Guard requires me to report for duty one weekend a month and two weeks each summer. My unit drills out of the Cottage Grove Armory most months, but sometimes we train at Camp Ripley Training Center (CRTC) or Arden Hills Army Training Site (AHATS). It has been 18 months since I enlisted and 4 months since I returned home from AIT, making this my first Annual Training (AT)!

We were clearly notified that AT will never be like this one, so my post will not reflect the typical training of National Guard soldiers. These two weeks are a time I desire others to hear and read about, and I’d love for you to reach out to me personally if you want to learn more!

Day 1.

Arriving two days late due to a virus, I was put right to work in the sick call clinic. Sick call is where soldiers come to get looked at for health concerns and issues. As a medic, I document their complaints and inquire the issue in more depth, as well as obtain vitals. After 10 minutes or so, I introduce the patient to our PA. Sick call was every morning in the dining hall of our building from 0800-1000. The rest of the day I hung out in our supply room reading and chatting with others in my unit. The day ended with group dinner and a walk at sunset while I called Sean (my lovely boyfriend who is currently deployed).

Day 2:

Tuesday was about the same as Monday, except I think we had PT. PT was inconsistent; some nights we played kickball or volleyball, we followed a workout plan a couple times, and we completed the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) Diagnostic one late morning at 0800.

Since all of the days are meshing together in my mind, I created a list of what we did throughout the two weeks instead of elucidating it day by day.

1. Leadership Reaction Course

The LRC was quite fun! I was in a group with three other people I already knew within my unit. This course consists of cement pillars, wooden 2 by 4s, ammo cans, ropes, and more equipment. Each task varies with its set-up and mission. For one mission, my group was to safely haul two ammo cans from one side of the water to the other, using a rope, two wooden planks of differing size, and only allowed to stand on the provided cement blocks. The mission statement had a theme to it that was meant to put us in the military mindset, because this is training, after all. I enjoyed the physical and social challenge that these tasks brought, even in the 95 degree heat!

2. Confidence Obstacle Course

The Confidence Course objective was to make it through each obstacle as it’s intended. There were 20 in all, and some were done with a partner or team. The obstacles were very similar to the ones at Basic Training: low crawl under barbed wire, hop from one short pillar to the next without touching the ground, tall monkey bars, balance across movable tree trunks, and rope swinging onto a platform. My favorite part about this course was watching one of our PAs complete every single obstacle with us. He didn’t have to be there or even participate, yet he did more obstacles than the rest of us! That is what I call motivating leadership and a natural boost to morale.

3. Litter Obstacle Course

Haha. We didn’t actually do this one. We drove out to the range, got lost, and found one starting point. We first walked through the trail and then came to the conclusion that it was overgrown by nature and an injury waiting to happen. It would’ve been insanely tough to carry a litter with 250lbs on it through this bushy path. We practiced carrying the litter with a patient from the ground to a helicopter, and loading it in accordance with the flight medic’s command. Our afternoon ended early with a gentle yoga session led by me!

4. Table IV Training

Table IV Training is just another way of titling how we refreshed our education on the material we were taught in AIT as 68Ws. This can be compared to “continuing education”, such as courses or events that educators attend to keep their certificates and licenses valid. Table IV covered trauma and medical patient assessments, anaphylactic shock, advanced management of orthopedic disorders, and cardiac emergencies. There are eight tables we are meant to be trained on within a certain time frame, and we completed Table IV in about five hours, presenting Power Points premade from the textbooks. This video shows the different arrhythmias of the heart through dance!

5. Range Medic

Each day there was a range medic needed either at weapons qualification or one of the obstacle courses. As the medic, we would open up our FLA (Field Litter Ambulance) and walk around to make our presence known and to keep an eye on the soldiers performing. We were there as an aide for people experiencing heat injuries, allergic reactions, or any other concerns that required primary care. We carried items such as sun screen, ice sheets, and common OTC medications.

6. MSTC Training: Medical Simulation Training Center.

MSTC (pronounced mystic) was where we completed Table IV Training and other activities that renewed our knowledge. We practiced many interventions used during the primary care phase of a traumatic event, such as surgical cricothyrotomy and venipuncture. Along with crics, we refreshed on other airway adjuncts, practicing NPA applications on each other and utilizing the King LT on the manikins. Aside from venipuncture, we practiced a walking blood bank for the first time! I was the patient. I had my fellow medics place an IV in me to fill a bag of blood and then learn the process of how to put that blood into someone else. Don’t worry, we didn’t actually give my blood to anyone else. This was to get an idea of what we might have to do in the field some day. A walking blood bank takes away the need to store and carry packaged blood. It was an exciting, hands-on learning experience.

During our time at MSTC, we practiced CCAs (Combat Casualty Assessments) in the simulation rooms. These rooms have manikins (or parts of manikins lol) who possess qualities of a dying casualty. They are completely controlled by the man behind the window who taps on his little screen to make the manikin have unilateral rise and fall of the chest or increased HR. The manikins can be manipulated as far as their pupil reaction, breath sounds, and body movements. The room itself can be controlled with smoke, flashing lights, sirens or screams, and bangin’ music. Some medics were accompanied by our Company Commander peering right over their shoulders as they applied tourniquets, inserted saline locks, and called for a MEDEVAC.

7. PHAs and Dental at the TMC.

PHAs are Periodic Health Assessments which take place at the Troop Medical Clinic. It’s the same as a civilian check up: obtaining vitals, discussing health implications or concerns, eye exams, and renewing any vaccinations. During this event, we obtained a few blood samples and gave some vaccines. More importantly, a soldier training at OCS (Officer Candidate School) had a gnarly laceration on his head, a bloody horizontal slash between the top and crown. One of our PAs educated us on the sutures he was applying. The most gruesome part was watching lidocaine get injected not only around this cut, but straight into the opening! I cringed and held my breath, but refused to look away. One of our medics also received two stitches on the tip of her index finger. A rather eventful day that I’m zealous to share about.

8. MWR Events.

Morale, Welfare, and Recreation events were intentional hangout nights. Some activities we did were play kickball, compete against another company in sand volleyball, go swimming, visit the museum on post, and go out to eat. These events were refreshing to the soul, light-hearted in nature, and simply bonding.

9. Testing JBC-Ps on the tracks.

I did have to Google search this one… JBC-Ps are Joint Battle Command-Platforms. This is a software that’s found in the Army’s computer systems. The one’s we worked on look like an iPad and come with a stylus and keyboard, which were attached to the tracks. Tracks are the type of vehicle we were in, which had tracks instead of wheels. I believe one of them is the M113, according to my instant search engine and (usually) knowledgeable friend, Wikipedia. Learn more about JBC-Ps here, and tracks here, since this is not my area of expertise!

Welcome to the end of this update, friend! We made it. I’m so happy you have taken the time to read about one short moment in my life, a brief period of soul development and character revealing. Thank you!

I wouldn’t have guessed the Army to be such a positive influence in my life since this new adventure began, but here I am. I thank our Heavenly Father for being my constant provision and unchanging source of courage through the unknown and uncomfortable.

Let me know how I can be praying for you, reach out if you’re curious about my Army endeavors, and Happy Sunday. 🙂

xoxo

Gretch

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