MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. –
Instructors assigned to the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Maryland, taught 42 service members and civilians how to medically manage casualties through the Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation Course here, Dec. 6-8.
The MEIR Course focuses on mitigating the effects of radiation caused by nuclear incidents that can occur on or off the battlefield.
The concepts within MEIR stem from the Medical Effects of Nuclear Weapons Course, which was developed in 1976 as a response to the Cold War. The newer curriculum more accurately reflects the current threats posed by ionizing radiation outside of a nuclear detonation and leverages the latest medical knowledge to educate military medical personnel.
“We have rarely had to exercise the muscles of deconning an area and taking care of a radiation accident,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Aure Stewart, AFRRI MEIR course director. “There has been an increased interest in the course because of what is happening in Ukraine right now, with nuclear powerplants and the potential for contamination across a larger area.”
Airmen, Soldiers and civilians assigned to 10 installations across the country attended the 3-day event. The class consisted of military physicians, nurses, medical planners, public health specialists and bioenvironmental engineers.
The students participated in hands-on exercises with radiation defense equipment and attended lessons that covered diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries, psychological effects of radiation exposure, radioprotection and other topics.
“I was surprised to learn in depth how radiation spreads throughout the body and damages cells after the subject is initially exposed,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman David Zartler, 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician. “The topic of radiation is unknown for many and challenging to comprehend. It’s valuable for me to understand how it works so I can communicate that to others.”
The joint-forces training included a mixture of officers, enlisted members and civilians. During portions of the course, the students divided into groups and were given problematic scenarios involving radiation that they worked through collectively.
“Coming out of this course, the students will be able to better understand the risks associated with radiological nuclear weapons or devices,” Stewart said. “They learn how to best manage incidents, whether that is getting the site cleaned up, taking care of the risk communication and helping people with potentially limited resources.”
Courses such as MEIR will continue to help advance the capabilities of military medical personnel and increase readiness amongst America’s fighting forces.