August 13, 2015 – JERICHO, Vt. – Recently the Vermont National Guard collaborated with the U.S. Army Medical Department Board (USAMEDDBD), the MEDEVAC Proponency Directorate and the Army Aeromedical Research Lab to evaluate five new flexible litters. Over a three-day period, approximately 35 Guard members tested and trained on hoisting the litter from both the ground and water.
“The test was a huge success,” said Maj. Joseph Dominguez III, chief of the Materiel Test and Evaluation Branch. “The USAMEDDBD was extremely pleased with the professionalism, enthusiasm and work ethic that all involved Soldiers displayed throughout the test. We accomplished the goals of our test plan and were able to test the litters in a representative operational environment.”
According to Dominguez, the USAMEDDBD is the only independent operational test and evaluation agency of medical-related materiel and information technology products, in support of the Army and Department of Defense acquisition process. They provide assessments of emerging concepts, doctrine and advanced technology applications applied to the delivery of health care on the battlefield and in fixed facilities.
Five vendors participated in the litter testing. The different litters were designed for identified operational gaps in dismounted and rescue hoistable litters being used in theater. Prior to the operational test in Vermont, the litters went through a developmental and airworthiness testing.
“It was challenging to gather the right mix of medic experience, especially when most units need their medics for other annual training time, but we made it happen,” said 1st Sgt. Bert Severin, first sergeant for Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance). “Most of our Soldiers were experienced in ground evacuation. Adding the hoist/tag line was great training for all across the board, but the addition of the day on the water just took it to the next level.”
Soldiers with a medical background were selected from a variety of units within the Vermont National Guard. There was representation from the Vermont Medical Detachment, Aviation, Army Mountain Warfare School, Charlie Med., the 15th Civil Support Team and 131st Engineers.
“After every iteration, the litter bearers took a survey, providing feedback for the testing team to generate a matrix of strengths and weakness for each litter tested,” Severin said. “It was very intense, physical training, that also accomplished the needs of the testing team. The active-duty testing team was very impressed with our emphasis on safety, while still pushing everyone to their limits.”
“The benefit of being involved in evaluating the litters is two-fold,” said Dominguez. “First, the flight medics benefited by being able to see the latest technology offered in hoistable litter systems and were able to use them in a representative operational environment. They were able to apply their expertise in using the litters and then provide feedback and recommendations for each of the litter systems. The added benefit to the Soldier is exposure to the new technology and being able to have a voice in what they could possibly end up using in future deployments.”
“Second, there are also benefits to the U.S. Army, in general,” Dominguez said. “We were able to use experienced flight medics to evaluate the hoistable litter systems and give the proper feedback to assist in the decision to potentially select on a litter system. The experience and the feedback provided by the flight medics are an invaluable asset to assist the U.S. Army Acquisition process in potentially deciding the best litter system.”
This is not the first time the Vermont National Guard has collaborated with the USAMEDDBD.
“We fostered a relationship with the VTNG from a prior test using the Noise Immune Stethoscope,” Dominguez said. “The Vermont National Guard and Mountain Warfare School proved to be an excellent resource for testing aeromedical equipment, so we asked if they would participate and they accepted.”
“We are very happy to continue this relationship,” Dominguez said. “They are an excellent resource to test and evaluate new medical materiel solutions that are applicable to the U.S. Army aviation/medevac units. The unit has well-maintained aircraft and their personnel are very professional, experienced, and knowledgeable.”