Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wis. —
Staff Sgt. Sara Syverhus’, a medical technician from the 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, her right leg has an open fracture.
Instead of her pain level peaking at a solid 10 on the pain scale, which symbolizes someone enduring absurd pain, she smiles and feels nothing.
Major Deanna Jensen, nurse clinician at 934 ASTS, tends to and is the cause of the compound Syverhus fracture. Instead of applying lifesaving healing, Jensen uses white clay to mold a fragment of imitation cracked bone through the skin of Syverhus’ right shin. Jensen also dabs a paintbrush in different shades of light and dark red to simulate blood on Syverhus’ wound. The injury should look as real as possible for an exercise involving a large number of casualties shortly after it is finished.
Jensen is the full-time cast artist during Exercise Viking Shield, the newest flyaway mission for Airmen from the 934th Airlift Wing. This week-long exercise led by the 934 AW began in early April with the goal of testing the combat and related skills of 934 AW Airmen in an austere environment. Additionally, the exercise took these Citizen Airmen out of their normal routine training congregation and placed them in an environment with a multitude of training spaces and opportunities not available at Minneapolis-Air Reserve. Station, Min.
Casting is the art of creating realistic wounds for the purpose of designing a realistic workout. In Jensen’s case, she didn’t learn this ability the traditional way by going to school. Instead, she learned her cosmetic skills by watching videos and practicing. Therefore, if Viking Shield was a low-budget horror movie, Jensen would have been the film’s makeup artist.
Jensen was recruited to mold all mass event casualties during Exercise Heavy METL at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan. 934 ASTS liked her job and they recruited her again to perform the same services.
Jensen said the injuries that are easy to create are burns and lacerations. However, today she is looking forward to getting her first compound fracture and treating a chest injury.
“We want to add Alka-Seltzer to a chest sucking wound. The Alka-Seltzer with a little water boils the wound,” Jensen said.
During the creative process, Syverhus constantly watches Jensen use his shin like a painter works on a canvas. “I know; It’s really great. It looks so real. Every time I look at my leg, I feel like throwing up. I just have to remind myself that it’s just makeup,” said Syverhus.
Technology. sergeant. Julia Matthews, medical case manager at 934 ASTS, says the casting at Viking Shield is fantastic because it looks great and provides a level of realism when treating casualties. “When we have a cast it helps tremendously because we can go directly to the patient and see what’s going on instead of talking to them and asking what their pain map says.”
Jensen said she had more casting opportunities at Viking Shield, however, she still had challenges, but also rewards. “On the first day of this year, I used the cast on the patients in a van while traveling in the first convoy. It was difficult because there was little space and the cast can be very messy. The second day we were in a conference room and i had plenty of time, with the extra time i was able to figure out how to do a chest sucking bubble.
Since ASTS 934 has invested in casting, it has helped tremendously to create a level of realism for these types of exercises. Additionally, having a dedicated person allows more time to design and create more elaborate and superficial wounds to challenge Airmen. The result is Airmen who are more resilient, capable, and prepared for real-world situations.