US Brooke Army Medical Center conducted the first of its kind pre-deployment trauma readiness training exercise for the 555th Forward Surgical Team at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The new Strategic Trauma Readiness Center of San Antonio, or STaRC, used a combination of didactic and hands-on learning to prepare the 555th for deployment. Known as the “Triple Nickel,” the 555th Forward Surgical Team is a decorated trauma surgical detachment under the 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade, from Fort Hood, Texas.

“This program is unlike any other pre-deployment trauma readiness training in that it takes the best of all training modalities and combines it into one three-week program,” said Army Col. Dr. Tyson Becker, BAMC STaRC director.

The program leverages the expertise and capabilities across multiple healthcare disciplines at BAMC, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, the Medical Center of Excellence, the Joint Trauma System and the Air Force 59th Medical Wing to provide deploying surgical teams with the most realistic and comprehensive wartime skills certification.

“We have all of the resources in one place to do everything that a deploying trauma team needs before they deploy,” Becker said, “to include a Joint Trauma Service-led Emergency War Surgery Course with trauma labs, a live-fire field training exercise at Camp Bullis with the support of the Medical Center of Excellence, and BAMC, the Department of Defense’s only Level I trauma center where the team will take trauma call.”

What makes STaRC unique is its comprehensive assessment plan, which standardizes the implementation of various tools to measure individual clinical competency and team proficiency. STaRC is also the first to develop a phased curriculum based on DoD Trauma Registry caseload and performance data. Additionally, the program can also be adapted to meet the needs of a variety of surgical teams.

During the first week of the exercise, the entire 20-person team attended an Emergency War Surgery Course hosted by the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The surgical team divided into two 10-man teams for the remainder of the exercise to replicate split operations during the unit’s deployment. Each team experienced realistic training scenarios at Camp Bullis during a live-fire field training exercise. They also received clinical instruction from military trauma experts at BAMC and the ISR.

“The focus of this training is on life-saving interventions needed for damage control resuscitation and damage control surgery in the deployed forward surgical environment,” Becker said. “To achieve this, every single member of the team will understand their role in trauma care, perform necessary critical procedures, and cross-train for force multiplication.”

Becker said the training exercise came about because of the combination of the right people at the right time. BAMC Commanding General Army Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter was previously the command surgeon at U.S. Army Forces Command. FORSCOM is responsible for providing expeditionary, regionally engaged, campaign-capable land forces to combatant commanders.

“General Harter recognized all the resources we have here in San Antonio to train trauma teams,” Becker said.

That, combined with the drive of Air Force Col. (Dr.) Patrick Osborn, BAMC deputy commander for Surgical Services, to make trauma readiness a priority and Becker’s deployed trauma experience led to the creation of STaRC.

“Currently, each service has established separate Trauma Training Centers at civilian hospitals throughout the U.S. to sustain critical wartime medical readiness skills,” explained Osborn. “Our program offers the added benefit of a realistic battlefield experience at Camp Bullis.”

“To build trauma readiness prior to deploying, surgical units must achieve tactical and operational proficiency through individual and collective training that is tough, realistic, iterative, and battle-focused,” he added. “Through the STaRC program, BAMC’s goal is to serve as the premier training platform for operational trauma readiness.  We will assess and validate the readiness of DoD’s deploying medical professionals and impart BAMC’s trauma mindset on these teams to improve combat casualty care.”

Becker agreed. “This program will benefit military medicine by sustaining and enhancing trauma skills for every team member of the deploying surgical unit that can increase the odds that U.S. service members can come home alive.”