High tech -- and expensive -- mannequins are replacing older training devices at medical battalions, field medical training battalions and naval medical centers. (Navy)
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Navy hospital corpsmen will now train on advanced medical mannequins that can cost up to $240,000 before heading downrange.
Camp Pendleton, Calif.'s Combat Logistics Battalion 11, for example, is using them to train its medical and mobile surgical teams.
Gone are the days when platoon docs trained with simple plastic dummies, or with Marines playing the role of "mock" patients.
At $20,000 to $240,000 apiece — wireless models are costlier — they are not cheap. They bleed, sweat and pant. They moan and blink their eyes. Their skin warms to the touch, or turns blue when they run out of oxygen. They can fall asleep.
These high-tech medical mannequins are designed to mimic human ailments, injuries and even reactions, in order to test and train medical personnel for emergencies and medical procedures. The mannequins are replacing older training devices at medical battalions, field medical training battalions and naval medical centers.
Instructors control or program the mannequins for specific scenarios, or to drive the training for the medical staff, much like what aviators experience in aircraft simulators.
"It's a little freaky at first," admitted Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Craig Vermette, 22, a member of a CLB-11 shock trauma platoon. "You'll actually hear them breathing heavy."
Vermette said it's great training for his platoon's three-person teams.
"They always try to throw you a curveball and see if we can respond to that," Vermette said while showing off a male "patient" at San Francisco's Marina Park during the city's Fleet Week in October.
The mannequins star at Naval Medical Center San Diego's Simulation Center, one of three such training labs in the Navy — others are at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. San Diego's lab is the military's largest. The multidisciplinary center trains corpsmen, nurses and physicians along with graduate medical students.
Medical officials say the mannequins teach corpsmen, nurses and doctors important techniques and provide a realistic way to practice.
"What it does is really build up that muscle memory," said Navy Cmdr. Hermann Gonzalez, an emergency medical physician assigned to a shock trauma platoon that will deploy next year with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.