(April 4, 2022 / JNS) A 10-day, large-scale American-Israeli navy drill recently included joint activities by medical personnel from both fleets, including the setting up of a hospital at sea onboard Israel’s largest type of sea vessel.
The Deputy Surgeon General of the Israeli Navy, Lt. Cdr. Dr. Y, told JNS in recent days that the joint exercise focused on deploying “advanced medical capabilities at sea when crews are disconnected from shore and far away from hospitals.”
Under such conditions, when evacuations are not always immediately on hand, the navy needs its own independent ability to deal with serious injuries and health issues, the officer explained.
Lt. Cdr. Y, who commanded the medical stage of the drill, ensures that the Israeli Navy’s medical readiness level is high and well-trained. The exercise tested what he described as the navy’s “medical operational readiness,” encompassing everything from medics to specialized surgeons.
The drill, dubbed “Intrinsic Defender,” involved the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet. It began on Feb. 27, and played out simultaneously in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Some 300 regular Israeli service members and commanders of the Israel Defense Forces, two Israeli missile ships, a team from the Underwater Mission Unit, a team from the Navy’s Snapir Unit (Visit Board Search and Seizure Unit) and the Israeli medical team joined some 300 American sailors and commanders.
The medical exercise was held at Haifa Naval Base.
During the drill, the teams held a professional conference on head injuries—a special medical challenge to deal with far from hospitals when emergency rooms are not available.
It continued on to testing the abilities that the medical teams can deliver on Israeli Navy Sa’ar 6-class ships—the largest vessels in the Israeli fleet—where advanced medical technology can be deployed.
“We bring ER treatment abilities to this ship,” said Lt. Cdr. Y. “We have senior doctors equipped with a suitcase full of tools, and they can open a kind of small ER room to treat a small number of injuries.”
This includes medical computing and ultra-sound equipment that can be used in both routines and emergencies.
While X-ray machines are too large to place on ships, ultra-sound systems are able to do much of the scanning and assessment, and are not larger than a laptop, said the officer.
“Ultra-sound can provide data on a wide range of injuries and diseases. It enables us to see lungs, the stomach and blood vessels. In the hands of experienced staff, it can even treat pain effectively without the use of opiates or anesthetics,” he explained.
“We built a continuous treatment process that begins with the medics and paramedics, and continues on to the specialists, with each one providing treatment at their level,” said Lt. Cdr. Y.
‘The same common language’
The American team joined the drill with large numbers of personnel, and teams from both countries examined the differences and similarities in their protocols.
Ultimately, the officer said, “we use the same tools,” despite pinpoint protocol differences.
Joint American-Israeli teams also dealt with mock patients to pick up on differences in approaches and conduct mutual learning, he said.
“We held two large exercises on two Sa’ar 6 ships,” he said. “While there some differences in approaches, it was not hard to find the same common language.”
The Intrinsic Defender exercise “joins past exercises between the IDF and the United States Armed Forces in strengthening the operational capabilities and strategic partnership of the two militaries,” the Israeli military stated last week.
Vice Adm. David Saar Salama, commander of the Israeli Navy, said: “The Israeli Navy and the U.S. Fifth Fleet are well-aware of challenges in the naval arena. One of the ways to deal with these challenges is cooperation between friends, cooperation between nations. The United States is a very important ally of the State of Israel, the IDF and the Israeli Navy. We once again are at the beginning of another exercise—an exercise that will help us to improve and strengthen cooperation.”
The navy’s basic training for medical staff begins at the 10th Training Base, where all IDF meds, paramedics and doctors get their start. After that, navy medical practitioners learn specialty skills suitable to their future environment, like rescuing diving, dealing with sea sickness, and oxygen and nitrogen poisoning.
Additional training focuses on the ability to provide medical services away from land, as patients wait for evacuation.
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