Navy

Medics deal with chemical and nuclear attack injuries – all part of NATO exercise

Actors 'suffered' mock injuries and played the role of casualties to bring a further sense of reality to the training.

Royal Navy medics have been dealing with the aftermath of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attacks – all part of an exercise.

Medical experts from 13 nations gathered in Tisá in the Czech Republic to work together on treatments, decontamination and dealing with casualties in the wake of a CBRN attack.

Personnel dealt with mock casualties at the site of an old chemical and biological testing ground during the four-day exercise, sharing their knowledge.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines combined medical team delivered a demonstration of the UK techniques and procedures for dealing with such incidents.

Commando Forward Surgical Group of North Devon-based Commando Logistic Regiment deploy wherever Royal Marines do.

Their responsibility is to treat casualties in the field and, as a result, must be highly efficient at setting up medical treatment facilities at a moment's notice.

During the Czech Republic exercises, they were at the forefront of the joint casualty decontamination area, which must be set up rapidly to deal with people exposed to a CBRN attack – and where victims of the attack are decontaminated, given basic medical treatment and passed on to the next level of medical care.

"Scenarios like this are needed to keep us grounded and prepared to efficiently treat and care for real-time CBRN casualties we may expect during operations," said Medical Assistant Jack Franklin.

Royal Marines assessing a casualty during Royal Navy NATO exercise 05082022 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg
Royal Marines assessing a casualty during the exercise (Picture: Royal Navy).

"As the casualty decontamination area medical team is very small, everyone must be able to take a step back, think and assess the situation.

"This was crucial for the triage medic at the front of the facility who decides, based on protocol, who receives treatment first.

"In real-time," he says, "this will be a very difficult job. In battle, it's realistic to consider that not everyone is going to survive.

"Prioritising a casualty with a better chance of survival over a casualty with serious injuries is key to prevent quickly consuming our limited time and resources that can prevent us treating other multiple casualties for injuries that we can expect to survive," he added.

Members of the Royal Marines Band Service operated alongside the surgical group in the contamination area, together giving patients basic medical treatment and assessing their injuries.

The bands, known for pleasing crowds with their musical ability, are also fully trained military personnel, usually providing medical support.

At any given time, one of the bands is also held at short notice to support Royal Navy medical branches on board Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Argus, to undertake a variety of medical support roles after sufficient training.

Casualties are moved during Royal Navy NATO exercise 05082022 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg
Casualties are moved during the exercise (Picture: Royal Navy).

In the Czech Republic, the medics and Band Service formed a team, assembling the casualty decontamination area in the fastest time recorded for 10 years – in just 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

The testing live exercises came after a phase of theory, practicals and medical simulation, all part of a programme of essential training that keeps the alliance's medical teams prepared in case the worse were to happen.

Mock injuries were applied to actors who played the role of casualties to bring a further sense of reality to the training.

"From a Royal Marine's perspective, it was a great insight into how the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Band Service work together during an exercise like this and witnessing/observing the medical treatment itself," said Commando Logistic Regiment Marine George Blake.

With no previous experience as a team medic or experience with CBRN casualties, the marine said he "can now happily say in confidence" he "would know what to do without any issues".