MADISON, Wis. — From 1861 until the end of the Civil War in 1865, more than 70,000 Wisconsin troops trained at Camp Randall. Today, Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers continue to train at the historic site in a different capacity.
The Wisconsin National Guard and the University of Wisconsin’s athletic training program have built a partnership over the past four years in which Guard medics train with University of Wisconsin athletic trainers on soft-tissue injuries as part of what planners coined “Operation Badger Medic.”
Combat medic skills are critical to the Wisconsin National Guard, an organization charged with fulfilling a key role as part of the nation’s primary combat reserve. Medics are vital to combat operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in training environments and even when the National Guard responds to domestic emergencies here in the United States.
“Over the past 15 years medics have been trained on trauma injuries, gunshot wounds, amputations, and we have sustainment training in place for those skills” said Staff Sgt. Tim Ehlers, the training noncommissioned officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment. “We didn’t at the time have a sustainment in for soft tissue injuries, shoulder injuries, back injuries, knee injuries.”
Guard medics who participate in Operation Badger Medic spend five days working with University of Wisconsin athletic training staff. Soldiers attend practices and clinics, observing medical interactions with athletes. The Guard medics do not work on the athletes, but they are able to practice techniques they learn on the athletic trainers they work with.
The partnership has helped Guard medics learn preventative medicine techniques for orthopedic injuries, Ehlers said.
“A lot of the injuries that we’re seeing out in the field are the same injuries that these athletes are sustaining here,” said Spc. Zachary Bornemann, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery.
Bornemann went through Operation Badger Medic in early November. He plans to put together a class with another medic who went through the program to help train more Soldiers in his unit.
“I really didn’t know that there was certain ways to tape ankles or knees, and not only a certain way to do it, but different ways to do it for different injuries,” Bornemann said. “That’s something I can take back.”
The program has also been beneficial for the university’s athletic training staff, according to Kyle Gibson, an assistant athletic trainer and the coordinator for the athletics portion of Operation Badger Medic.
“Athletic trainers are natural educators, so it’s great because we’re able to give back to the military,” Gibson said.
The athletic training staff also have opportunities to train with Guard medics on trauma training and managing injuries in stressful situations, he added. The UW trainers have also participated in U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) training for Wisconsin Army National Guard medics across the state at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
“You can imagine 80,000 people looking at you trying to do an evaluation,” Gibson said. “It’s a pretty stressful situation. How do you handle that stress and still perform your job?”
Alyson Kelsey, an assistant athletic trainer with the University of Wisconsin, agrees that the program has had a positive impact.
“I’ve seen [the program] grow in the last four years, and I think each year it’s gotten better,” Kelsey said. “I think we’ve been able to create a program that’s beneficial for both the athletic trainers growing as professionals, as well as all of the medics that come through the program.”
More than 30 Wisconsin National Guard medics have participated in Operation Badger Medic to date, with more scheduled to go through the training this winter. Both the UW athletic training staff and Guard medics gave the program positive reviews.
“I think it’s a really great program, and it’s important for different areas of healthcare providers to learn from each other,” said Margaret Pelton, an assistant athletic trainer with the University of Wisconsin. “I think just having that understanding and that partnership is really important.”