The 673d Medical Group, with the help of the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Veterinary Treatment Facility, held its first-ever K-9 Tactical Combat Casualty Care class at the JBER hospital Sept. 1.
Course organizer U.S. Army Capt. Patrick McFadden, a senior veterinarian for Fort Wainwright, said he hopes the class becomes a quarterly opportunity for emergency care responders, flight doctors, independent medical technicians, and other human health providers to learn tactical stabilizing care for military working dogs.
“Because there are so few veterinarians in the military, human healthcare providers are frequently the first people that these dogs are going to see,” said McFadden. “Our goal with this course is to increase military working dogs’ access to care in austere environments.”
The joint branch course touched on life-saving topics such as emergency airway management, abdominal trauma, transfusions, blast and burn injuries, and more for canines.
“By giving human health care providers the muscle memory and hands-on exposure to some basic K-9 injuries, we can increase canine survivability from a point of injury, all the way to hospitalization through the course of their evacuation, or extended field care, thereby increasing positive outcomes on dogs,” said McFadden.
Students were put through a K-9 TCCC scenario of a dire distress call for an injured MWD. A realistic canine puppet simulated multiple injuries and forced each team of medics to quickly locate, diagnose, and treat the animals under the threat of combat fire. Throughout the course, the importance of being able to extend and provide medical care to MWDs was emphasized.
“Military working dogs are a significant force multiplier,” said McFadden. “There is no equipment in the world as sensitive as a MWD’s nose.”
Officially, MWDs were not recognized until 1942, though there are older records of dogs being used in warfare.
“[Military Working Dogs] play a pivotal role in mission operations, and we need to be able to treat them just as well as we can treat injured Soldiers,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Sanders, a veterinarian technician for Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. “Especially being in Alaska, we need to start preparing for any type of situation that may occur, whether they are domestic or foreign. For example, let’s say an avalanche occurs and we now have to deploy our units out there to help local villages, or any if type of terrorist chemical attack might occur.”
An active working dog team visited during the course to allow students to practice safe engagement with an MWD and her handler. Medical responders had a chance to examine the dog’s eyes, ears, paws and heart rate.
“I think it’s important for us to be able to have courses like these that build on the foundation we have and give us some tools to apply on non-traditional settings,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Gangidine, a student and medical responder for the 673d Medical Group. “We might have to take care of something that most wouldn’t otherwise get a lot of exposure in training to, or maybe any in the civilian world.”
Military health care providers are encouraged to sign up for future classes that teach basic K-9 TCCC skills, and to snag this opportunity to extend their lifesaving care beyond human handlers and to our four-legged troops.