Story and photos by Karl Weisel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
When members of the 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion moved from Wiesbaden to Baumholder in 2012, they took their tactical field care training facility with them.
Thanks to a joint effort by the Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic and the Training Support Center, a brand new “Viper Pit” was established in the same location on Clay Kaserne offering Soldiers and other first responders a local opportunity to learn valuable lifesaving skills in a simulated combat environment.
“We basically rebuilt the Viper Pit with the help of the Wiesbaden TSC,” said Staff Sgt. John Lacroix, who helped establish the original facility while serving with the 421st MMB before transferring to the Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic. “The Health Clinic provided all of the medical supplies and the Training Support Center the training facility, medical aids/devices, and ancillary equipment.
“We take care of the personnel and teaching side,” said Lacroix, explaining that the only money spent on rebuilding the facility was given by the Training Support Activity Europe for the Training Support Center to renovate the facility and the purchase of new training manikins and special effects equipment.
“We proposed taking on this mission to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center commander,” he added, explaining that the proposal was met with enthusiasm. “Not only can we now provide world class health care at the WAHC, but we can also offer world class medical tactical training.
“This is the second group we’ve had come through since the Health Clinic assumed responsibility,” said Lacroix, explaining that starting in February the Viper Pit will offer regular Combat Life Saving training sessions on the first and third Mondays of the month. The consolidated classes can support 40 people and are geared toward providing intensive “stress inoculation” training whereby participants learn to render critical lifesaving aid in the face of any number of combat-like distractions.
While primarily for local units preparing to deploy, the trainers will remain flexible to open the Viper Pit to outside units and other NATO service members requesting the sought-after training. “We’re also mobile and very versatile,” said Lacroix, explaining that the training has been taken to other European countries in the past. “We’re trying to capitalize on the systems and assets that we have here. … We’re getting a lot of support from everybody.”
Over several bone-chilling days in late January, more than 30 German and Austrian service members and law enforcement officers repeatedly made their way through the training facility.
As Health Clinic trainers yelled instructions in the smoke-filled, machine-gun-rattled darkness of the Viper Pit, the military and civilian first responders worked feverishly on manikins, applying tourniquets and quickly assessing emergency care required. Then they transported the injured outside, established security, called in medical evacuation and headed to the prescribed “safe” pick-up point, all while negotiating IEDs, snipers and other obstacles.
“You can see them become more confident and self-assured each time they go through,” said Bundeswehr Reserve 1st Lt. Oliver Oswald, who serves as an international liaison in coordinating the training between international partner forces and the U.S. military. “They gain confidence and learn to concentrate on providing the necessary care while under the stress of combat.”
For more information about the Viper Pit training contact Staff Sgt. John Lacroix at mil 337-6637. (To view more photos from the Viper Pit visit the garrison’s Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/wpao.)