TAPA, Estonia – “Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk. Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around since I was born. And now it’s all right, I’m OK. And you may look the other way. We can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on a man … “
Yes, those are the opening lyrics to the Bee Gee’s 1977 hit song Stayin’ Alive, from the soundtrack to the cinematic blockbuster, Saturday Night Fever. However, for the U.S. and Estonian medical soldiers stationed here during Operation Atlantic Resolve, this song serves a higher purpose than awakening nostalgic memories of polyester bellbottom jeans, jumpsuits, and larger-than-life afro haircuts.
Underneath Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb’s rhythmic falsettos lies the iconic beat of the song – a beat that both the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation agree serve as the ideal pace at which a person should perform chest compressions on a victim of cardiac arrest.
Chest compressions are vital for keeping a victim’s heart beating to allow blood and oxygen to flow through his body while waiting for a higher echelon of care to arrive – and one of the lifesaving skills the countries’ medics practiced during a training exercise, here, Nov. 13, 2014.
And yes, Stayin’ Alive was playing the whole time.
The training centralized around a high-tech medical mannequin connected to a computer system that allowed the teachers to monitor every aspect of the care provided to the simulated patient. In the morning, the soldiers from both countries worked together to learn about opening airways, providing chest compressions, delivering oxygen with a ventilation pack, and shocking a heart with a defibrillator.
“Today we are practicing [Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support], basically it’s cardiopulmonary resuscitation training with all the equipment we have: defibrillators, ventilation packs, and so on,” said Heiko Porval, one of the training nurses in charge of the exercise. “[It’s important because] they don’t usually do the resuscitation very often so we have to train to keep our skills updated all the time – if we need it, then we know how to use it.”
Understanding how to stabilize a patient in the field is a crucial skill for any medical responder. It holds a special significance to medics in the military as it may take an unusually long period of time for it to be safe to move a patient or for medical transport to arrive, especially in a combat zone.
“When we are in the forest, so we say, on the training course, we don’t have ambulances nearby,” said Porval. “If you start CPR at the very first minute when the patient is having a cardiac arrest then the chances for him to survive will be much higher.”
For many of the U.S. medics, this training exercise was about more than just refreshing their lifesaving skills, it also allowed them to bond with their Estonian counterparts, build professional relationships, and simply experience how someone in the same career field trains in another country, halfway around the world.
“It’s pretty interesting to see,” said Army Private 1st Class Jared Fugitt, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. “We’re sitting in on one of their training classes … it’s a refresher course and we’re able to kind of see how they do business, how they train. Just to be able to watch them work is interesting.”
One of the greatest challenges when training with professionals from another country is the difference in standards. Armies often run into this issue when one country’s tactics and priority of objectives conflict with the other. The medics participating in this exercise didn’t have this issue as the U.S. combat medics follow the standards outlined by the American Heart Association and the Estonian nurses follow those of the British Heart Foundation, two organizations that share nearly identical standards.
The only real challenge we had to overcome was the language barrier, said Spc. Melissa Edwards, a Raleigh, North Carolina native and combat medic assigned to HHC, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav Regt., 1st BCT, 1st Cav Div.
After a morning of training with each other, the two countries split into their respective teams and participated in a practical exercise in which the team was given a simulated patient with a variety of ailments and they had to work together to stabilize him.
“It would be great if we got the opportunity to do this more often,” said Fugitt, a Fort Worth, Texas native. “This is pretty rare for us since we’ve been out here, so we jumped on the opportunity to come up and get hands-on to not only to train with them and to show them what we can do but to see what they can do as well.”
The U.S. Army Europe-led Atlantic Resolve, a multinational combined arms exercise involving the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and host nations, takes place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to enhance multinational interoperability, to strengthen relationships among allied militaries, to contribute to regional stability, and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO.
Back to Portfolio