K9 HERO shapes combat medicine

Mannequin is cutting-edge technology

By J.M. Simpson on October 31, 2019

Like the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines they serve beside, the health and lives of military working dogs, or MWDs, are just as valuable.

This point was highlighted during the most recent Army's Best Medic Competition held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 

As 58 of the Army's best combat medics vied for the title of "best," they had to confront a new and unbeknownst challenge.

"They are going to have to treat and care for a simulated wounded MWD as they would any other soldier," Col. Aric Bowman, operations officer, Regional Health Command - Pacific, said at the time.

"They have no idea of what is to come."

That MWD was a black, 50-pound Belgium Malinois mannequin, a K9 HERO Medical Trainer produced by Trauma F/X.

This canine mannequin costs $25,000 and comes with a life span of a decade.

While the Army has utilized other, less advanced versions of mannequin canines, the K9 HERO canine has been in service since 2015.

"The Army needed a realistic and practical model for veterinarians, combat medics, surgeons, and anesthesiologists," began Maj. (Dr.) Suzanne Skerrett, a veterinarian assigned to the Public Health Activity - Fort Lewis.

"In a word, the canine mannequin represents readiness because it is a critical training asset that provides point-of-injury, realistic combat medical training."

Skerrett and her colleague, SFC David Jordan, Regional Health Command - Pacific, referred to the mannequin as the focus for Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or CT3C, as it presents a spectrum of challenges.

Each canine mannequin, of which there are a half-dozen at JBLM, is durable, water resistant and can be transported anywhere.

Some of the mannequin's key features and training elements have or allow for packable wounds, a pulse, airway management, a movable jaw, intubation, breathing response, tracheostomy, needle decompression, CPR, IV insertions and intraosseous infusion.

Combined with flexible joints, bag ventilations which cause the chest to rise and fall, bleeding wounds and other features, medics and veterinarians can train to meet any medical situation.

Along with the range of medical scenarios, the K9 HERO is operated by a long-range RC controller which includes real-time telemetry to monitor medical interventions.

LED indicators and LCD readouts immediately display vital and intervention data, which provide instructors with instant feedback on the effectiveness of the medical interventions as well as push-button controls to modify conditions such as pulse rate and strength, and bleeding.

"There is an emphasis on a one health concept," added Amber Kurka, the public affairs officer from the Public Health Command - Pacific.

"This means that if there is to be increased readiness, there has to be a collaborative connection between human medicine, the animals and the environment in which they operate."

When asked how the medics did during the recent competition in meeting the challenge of treating a wounded canine, Skerrett said that they did well.

"It was a surprise to them, but they did well in reacting."

And the K9 HERO canine mannequin played a role in determining the best combat medics.