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111th Med Group hosts Advanced Trauma Life Support Course

A man in a flight suit stands near a training mannequin teaching Air Force medical personnel.

U.S. Air Force Col. Adam Colombo, 111th Medical Group Commander, instructs members participating in the Advance Trauma Life Support Course held at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, September 28, 2021. This is the second time the 111th MDG has hosted ATLS, which was developed by the American College of Surgeons and first introduced in the U.S. and abroad in 1980. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tyrone G. Mitchell)

A man in an Air Force uniform intubates a training mannequin.

U.S. Air National Guard Maj. Sammar Atassi, an internal medicine physician assigned to the 130th Medical Group headquartered at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, in Charleston, West Virginia, intubates an infant training mannequin during the Advanced Trauma Life Support course at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Sept. 28, 2021. Sixteen service members from nine different ANG units in six states participated in this ATLS class, which was hosted by the 111th Medical Group here. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tyrone G. Mitchell)

BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. --

More than a dozen Air National Guard members from six different states learned the ABCs during a medical course hosted by the 111th Medical Group here recently.

Not the song written to teach preschoolers the alphabet, but the “ABCDE” approach to treating trauma patients.

The 111th Medical Group hosted 16 ANG members from nine separate units located in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas for the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course, or ATLS, on Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Sept. 28-28, 2021.

U.S. Air National Guard Col. Adam Vernardakis, New Hampshire State Air Surgeon and ATLS instructor broke down the alphabetic mnemonic taught during the two-day course held here Sept. 28-28, 2021.

“It’s a simplified algorithmic approach for trauma management,” said Vernardakis. “A stands for airway with surgical motion restriction, B stands for breathing and making sure they're getting enough oxygenation, making sure they're outgassing enough. C stands for circulation, mainly with hemorrhage control, looking for the source of the bleeding and making sure you're stabilizing the patient. D is disability, looking for neurologic problems that are going to ultimately lead to an early demise, and E, exposure in environment control.”

This is the second time the 111th Med. Group has hosted ATLS, which was originally developed by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma and introduced in 1980. 

When former 111th Med. Group Commander U.S. ANG Col. Scott Coradi, reached out to the National Guard Bureau about hosting ATLS here, it resulted in the first ATLS course being offered at Biddle ANG Base in January of 2021. 

U.S. ANG Lt. Col. Denise Winters, a clinical nurse and medical administrator with the Missouri National Guard and ATLS course coordinator, explained why bringing ATLS to the 111th Med. Group was no easy task.

“There's a lot that goes into hosting a course,” said Winters. “You have to have a certified site. You have to have directors, a course, coordinator, and then there's quite a bit of work that goes into putting on the course between planning and then executing.”

The ATLS class was filled to maximum capacity, with interest in the course exceeding the number of seats available. However, the hard work to host the course paid dividends for the 111th Med. Group and the 16 students in attendance. 

The average cost of a civilian ATLS course can exceed $1,000.00, but by hosting ATLS at the 111th Med. Group, both the National Guard Bureau and individual units save money because it allows service members to attend the mandatory two-day course here while on military orders for a much lower cost. 

The 111th Med. Group didn’t just make the course more cost effective. They decreased waste by using expired medical equipment donated by Pennsylvania University Health System & Tower Health, and mitigated risk by training on SimMan, a type of training mannequin designed to provide a realistic, low-risk training environment. 

Winters said medical professionals are required to have ATLS as part of their Comprehensive Medical Readiness Program, or CMRP, with the goal of the course being to provide life-saving skills, regardless of their experience in medical trauma.

“They walk away with the ability to identify life-threatening injuries and how to intervene appropriately,” said Winters. “We talk about ABCDE …  Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability and Exposure. If you can identify in the first few minutes of a patient being injured, any of those life-threatening injuries and how to intervene appropriately, you can save somebody's life.”