GRAYLING, Mich. – The Missouri Army National Guard's 206th Area Support Medical Company (ASMC) is the first medical unit to evaluate the new interoperable, Multi-Modal Patient Movement (MM-PM) casualty evacuation prototype.
Members of the company are evaluating the system at exercise Northern Strike 21-2 at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center during annual training July 31-Aug. 14.
"We're always looking to find new, better ways to transport patients. It's a never-ending process," said U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Vincent. "It's what makes us more mobile and more battle-ready."
Vincent, a physician's assistant with the 206th ASMC, based in Springfield, Missouri, is enthusiastic about having input on how the Army and other services transport casualties.
"Usually, you only read Active-Duty components testing out new equipment, so for the Guard to be able to get their hands on something and try it during training is an excellent opportunity," he said.
Casualty evacuation is now by ambulance, truck, bus or specially equipped aircraft. The goal is to create a way to transport patients by vehicles or aircraft without the need for reconfiguration.
"Seeing how new technology can be integrated into the warfight helping to make the Army better and more efficient is unique," said Vincent. "Questioning whether or not it's going to make my life easier, and if it is going to make the patient's welfare better, are most important in this evaluation."
The prototype is a medevac transport unit designed to transport patients by air, sea, rail and ground. It was brought to Northern Strike 21 for testing and validation.
"They've asked for our opinion on the equipment," said Vincent. "We tested it through a bunch of scenarios — what patients would be put in there, how we continue to treat them during transport, and so forth. We did have some feedback on it, but ultimately it is a very adaptable system."
The MM-PM system looks like a shipping container and is now outfitted to transport up to 12 recumbent casualties. However, the preferred number is nine because that leaves room for a medic to monitor all injured. Northern Strike 21 is the first time the prototype is out in the field for real-world testing.
"I think that Northern Strike is a wonderful training opportunity for medical units," said Maj. Joseph Schmitz, the commander of the 206th ASMC. "I view the system as just another evacuation platform for me to place my patient on. It's ready to be moved from my area either to a theater for staging or for evacuation to clear the theater."
Schmitz recently attended a training conference where participants brainstormed ways to move large numbers of casualties out of the field to treatment areas. He said they had no idea the MM-PM system existed.
"We have to find creative solutions to clear the battlefield, so something like the MM-PMs is very innovative," said Schmitz. "I don't know if it's a valid concept as it is, but we're (the 206th ASMC) helping them test this concept, what works well, what doesn't, what they need to add, and what should they think about to get to the next step."
The MM-PM system is made to be used by the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy, which makes Northern Strike joint training a perfect opportunity for testing new multicomponent systems.
"This is developmental for the military, its military research. We'll integrate it right into the training," said Schmitz. "I'm excited to be part of the process that can ultimately result in saving lives in the future."