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 fractured leg.

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."