MADISON, Wis. - Three Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers entered a sea of red as they exited the tunnel onto the field in Camp Randall Stadium Sept. 12 for the University of Wisconsin Badgers home opener football game against the University of Miami-Ohio RedHawks.
The Soldiers took to the sidelines not as observers, but as partners with the UW-Madison athletic training staff, assisting the staff members and athletes before, during and after the game on the final day of a cooperative training program that began in early August.
Each of the three Soldiers worked with the UW-Madison athletic training staff for a five-day rotation during the Badgersí training camp in August.
Master Sgt. Richard Wilson, a health care specialist at Joint Force Headquarters; Staff Sgt. Tim Ehlers, a health care specialist with the Wisconsin Medical Detachment, 64th Troop Command; and Staff Sgt. James McCabe, a health care specialist with 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, helped the staff with taping, stretching and bracing athletes before practice and rehabbing those that were unable to participate in practice because of injury.
Wilson spoke about some of the techniques that he and his fellow Soldiers learned while working with the athletic training staff.
Wilson said he learned preventative techniques regarding soft-tissue injuries and how to treat them. He emphasized the usefulness of the training given the similarities of the injuries sustained by both athletes and Soldiers: the majority of the injuries dealt with are ankles, shoulders, knees, and concussions. Learning these new techniques enhances the health care specialistís ability to assess and treat injuries, he said.
"We can get Soldiers back into training or the fight quicker," Wilson continued.
McCabe also shared his experiences.
He said the time spent with the athletic training staff was "fantastic.î McCabe said he learned different techniques that can be applied in the field when an injury occurs and shared some of his own trauma-based knowledge with the athletic training staff.
Ehlers talked about how the program started.
The idea of forming this relationship with the universityís athletic training staff started from watching a Badgers basketball game, Ehlers said. He noticed the quick and efficient response of the athletic training staff when evaluating injuries. Ehlers knew a few personnel on the athletic staff and contacted the university about the possibility of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers receiving training from the universityís athletic training staff.
The university accepted Ehlersí proposal to have three Soldiers work with the athletic training staff as a test trial before expanding the program.
The Soldiers learned a more clinical side of the medical profession, contrasting from their trauma-focused training. However, the Soldiers were not the only ones to benefit from the cross training.
"We can learn a lot from each other,î said Dennis Helwig, assistant athletic director of sports medicine with the university.
Kyle Gibson, an assistant athletic trainer with the football team, agreed.
"It's a great opportunity," he said. "Anytime we can help do anything for the military, I think we're open to seeing what that can be."
When working with the Soldiers, Gibson prodded them for their knowledge and insight on trauma. He hopes to someday train with the National Guard and learn more emergency and trauma-based medicine.
Alyson Kelsey, an assistant athletic trainer with UW-Madison, agreed with her colleague.
She noted how quickly the Soldiers caught on to the training and how much they could relate to it. Kelsey also noticed that the Soldiers had a great understanding of the chain of command as it is used through the coaching and training staff. She hopes the UW-Madison athletic training staff can continue to work with Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers in the future.
"It's a good step in the right direction just to expand the profession," Kelsey said.
Ehlers said that thanks to this unique relationship, other National Guard units throughout the country have reached out to their state universities in hopes of establishing a successful cross-training program with their athletic training staff.
Wilson emphasized how beneficial the training was for both the Soldiers and UW-Madison athletic training staff as medical professionals.
"It's about knowledge and sharing in the medical profession," Wilson said. "If you have a piece of knowledge why keep it to yourself, pass it along and make it better for everybody."