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Hollywood Effects Prepare Sailors for Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070912-29
Release Date: 9/12/2007 3:53:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Phil Beaufort, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) introduced a new aspect of combat life-saving training to many predeploying Sailors during the two-week NECC-centric exercise Comet '07, which ended Sept. 13.

NECC hired special effects company, Strategic Operations (StratOps), to conduct "hyper-realistic” medical training and to simulate a tactical combat environment.

According to NECC Force Medical Master Chief (DSW/SS) Dennis Polli, the primary goal of "hyper-realistic" training is to mentally prepare Sailors for situations that could over-stress them.

"Most Navy training is didactic; classrooms, text books and then maybe you buddy up with someone and practice putting on bandages or a tourniquet. During Comet, non-medically trained Sailors will have to treat people with major trauma injuries, while under fire."

Using Hollywood-trained special effects, make-up artists and actors, many of whom are amputees, StratOps is able to present Sailors with one-of-a-kind training scenarios.

During the first week of Comet '07, Sailors attended a basic combat life-saving class. After they discussed theory for several hours, two Sailors at a time were led from the classroom and taken outside.

They were then prepped for their practical exercise, according to Constructionman Jonathan Lewis of Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2.

"They had us sprint 100 meters and then crank out a bunch of pushups to get our heart rates up," said Lewis. "Then they told us to enter a building and take a right. As soon as we got in, we saw a Sailor on the ground with both his legs blown off in a huge pool of blood. Apart from telling us to help him, they didn't give us any instruction. It was the most realistic training we've been through."

"When you actually have a guy who's missing limbs covered in blood and acting as though he was in shock, it's amazing," said Gunner's Mate 3rd Class James Soden, RIVRON 2.

One of the objectives of this course is to force the Sailor to calm down and assess the situation.

"In a way, it's just like any other training, you want to build mental and muscle memory," said Polli. "Once someone has seen something for the first time, they have a chance to get used to it, and the next time they're in a similar situation they won't hesitate to act."

StratOps Special Effects Artist Alisha Saunders, said she's had a lot of positive feedback from Marines who've gone through the training and returned from deployments in theater.

"A lot of people tend to freeze up when they see the wounds we create. From what we've been told, this is really helping prevent shock when out in the field," said Saunders. "Plus, they learn to wrap wounds that are covered in blood, which is a lot harder than wrapping clean skin during regular medical training."

Carie Helm, a makeup artist with StratOps, said there's a lot of job satisfaction turning someone into a blood-spewing medical nightmare.

"This is the best job in the world. We get to create our favorite things, horrible bloody wounds and work with Sailors and Marines. But seriously, if we can help prepare someone that's getting deployed, that means a lot to us."

Comet '07 was conducted in three locations – Fort Pickett, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Cheatham Annex and Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, all in Virginia. The exercise involves nearly 1,000 active-duty and reserve Sailors from various NECC commands including Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Seabees, Maritime Civil Affairs and Riverine.

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