DUSTOFF in Poland
by Bill Roche, V Corps Public Affairs Office
Oleszno, Polandó1 October, 2001óA group of soldiers and
civilians participating in V Corpsí combined US-Polish Exercise Victory
Strike II proved the value of training when they helped save the life of a
Polish citizen injured in a car accident on 30 September. Major John Kopp of
the US Army Contracting Command, Europe, was driving with his Polish
translator on Highway 175 northwest of the town of Kalisz Pomorski that
afternoon when he came upon a gruesome scene. A small orange car was wrapped
around a tree by the side of the road. Two young males had been thrown from
the car. One was unconscious and bleeding from a head or neck wound; the
other was conscious but having difficulty breathing. A third victim was
pinned inside the vehicle.
Kopp said that, to his surprise, several people were
standing around at the scene, but no one was aiding the victims. He grabbed
his cellular phone, he said, and things began to happen. As he phoned the
212th Military Police desk sergeant at Oleszno, traffic began backing up at
the scene. One of those stuck in traffic was U.S. Army, Europe, contractor
employee Jay Ellenberger, who joined Kopp to aid the victims.
Polish emergency rescue units arrived at the scene. They
prepared to move the unconscious victim and cut the trapped man from the
car. The trapped victim was taken to a local hospital to be treated for a
Meanwhile, the MPs relayed a call to an air ambulance team
of the 236th Medical Company from Landstuhl, Germany, waiting at nearby
Ziemsko Airfield. Scrambling from their readied Blackhawk air ambulance, the
team was airborne in minutes, said chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Adams, the
teamís pilot-in-command. Kopp marked a landing zone for the chopper in a
roadside field and gave directions to the airfield on his cell phone.
The team put down in a cloud of dust and raced to the
accident scene. When they appeared, said Flight Medics Staff Sergeant
Douglas Schwab and SPC Jimmy Rasche, everyone, including the Polish medical
team, "just kinda backed off."
As the 236th medics took over, they found that the
unconscious victim had no pulse, Rasche said, and he began to perform
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The patients were rushed onto the
chopper just 12 minutes after it sat down, Adams said. Twelve minutes later
it arrived at the Polish 107th Army Hospital at Walcz, about an hourís drive
from the accident scene. During the flight, Schwab said, the aircrew took
turns continuing the CPR on the unconscious victim.
At the hospital, both patients were whisked inside, he said,
as he and Rasche continued performing CPR. In concert with the hospital
staff, they soon had the patientís heart beating in a stable rhythm. The two
medics were pleasantly stunned.
"Itís not often you get a CPR casualty to come back," Schwab
said. "Especially doing it for that long," Rasche added.
The patient survived and was moved to a hospital in Drawsko
Pomorski the following morning for further treatment. The third victim
remained in Walcz for treatment of pelvis injuries.
Schwab said the incident is what medics work for. "You
expect the worst and hope for the best," he said.
"If they had tried to ground evacuate the guy, he wouldíve
died," Rasche said.
Everyone involved in the incident agreed that speed was only
half of the equation. Teamwork and training were the rest. "The mission . .
. was excellent," said pilot 1LT Casey Howard, "because everyone did exactly
what they were supposed to do."
"Itís sad to think of it as a training event when people are
really getting hurt," he added, "but these kinds of incidents provide
satisfaction and good training."
Kopp said the same. "All I can say is we followed our
training," the major said, "and did what comes as reflex. It was great. I
was very impressed."