USAMRIID Provides Personal Protective Equipment Training to Deploying Military
Army Medicine is working to ensure Soldiers deploying to West Africa to assist with Ebola relief efforts are educated on how to stay safe and healthy.
As part of Operation United Assistance, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases experts operating in 2-person mobile teams are training deploying personnel on how to properly put on and take off life-saving personal protective equipment. While U.S. military personnel are not expected to be in direct contact with Ebola patients or suspected Ebola patients, according to the Defense Department, force protection and public health safety is key. To date, more than 4,000 troops have been trained.
"The operational tempo of being able to get to the units when they need us has been a challenge," said Lt. Col. Neal Woollen, director of biosecurity at USAMRIID. "We have lots of people going to lots of places."
Training sessions consist of a combination of lectures followed by hands-on exercises. Under the USAMRIID trainers' watchful eyes, participants suit up into protective jumpsuits, gloves and masks. USAMRIID staff ensures attendees put on and remove their equipment in meticulous succession to avoid exposure, explained Woollen, citing adherence to U.S. Army Medical Command's PPE guidelines.
In addition to one-one-one Soldier instruction, USAMRIID's trainers are conducting "train-the-trainer missions," according to Woollen, including a cadre of training personnel at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.
USAMRIID trainers also instructed a joint 30-person medical support team at Fort Sam Houston Brooke Army Medical Center Annex in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 22-24. The team was assembled by the Defense Department to work alongside their civilian counterparts should additional Ebola cases emerge in the U.S.
"We... had wonderful trainers from USAMRIID come and they have provided us outstanding training," said Lt. Col. Steven Knapp, Chief of Health Promotion and Wellness with Public Health Command Region â€" South, of the class in an online video.
Discussing a portion of the class where students work in PPE with simulated germs, Knapp said, "Actually putting on the gear ... putting simulated germs on us and figuring things out ... not only do we get the good training but we get to see the results, too."
According to Woollen, USAMRIID's coaching has helped quell concerns troops may have felt about becoming infected with Ebola prior to the sessions.
"A main response our trainers have received is gratitude from deploying forces," said Woollen, "that we've shared our knowledge and experience with them in a manner that makes them feel safe."