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Medical support to military airborne training and operations
  1. Kerry J Starkey1,
  2. J Lyon2,
  3. E Sigman3,
  4. H J Pynn4 and
  5. G Nordmann5
  1. 1 Army Medical Directorate, The Former Army Staff College, Camberley, UK
  2. 2 Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Camberley, UK
  3. 3 Department of Brigade Surgeon, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Bragg, USA
  4. 4 Department of Emergency, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK
  5. 5 16 Medical Regiment, 127 Squadron, Colchester, UK


Introduction Airborne operations enable large numbers of military forces to deploy on the ground in the shortest possible time. This however must be balanced by an increased risk of injury. The aim of this paper is to review the current UK military drop zone medical estimate process, which may help to predict the risk of potential injury and assist in planning appropriate levels of medical support.

Method In spring 2015, a British Airborne Battlegroup (UKBG) deployed on a 7-week overseas interoperability training exercise in the USA with their American counterparts (USBG). This culminated in a 7-day Combined Joint Operations Access Exercise, which began with an airborne Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) of approximately 2100 paratroopers.

The predicted number of jump-related injuries was estimated using Parachute Order Number 8 (PO No 8). Such injuries were defined as injuries occurring from the time the paratrooper exited the aircraft until they released their parachute harness on the ground.

Results Overall, a total of 53 (2.5%) casualties occurred in the JFE phase of the exercise, lower than the predicted number of 168 (8%) using the PO No 8 tool. There was a higher incidence of back (30% actual vs 20% estimated) and head injuries (21% actual vs 5% estimated) than predicted with PO No 8.

Conclusion The current method for predicting the incidence of medical injuries after a parachute drop using the PO No 8 tool is potentially not accurate enough for current requirements. Further research into injury rate, influencing factors and injury type are urgently required in order to provide an evidence base to ensure optimal medical logistical and clinical planning for airborne training and operations in the future.

  • pre-hospital emergency medicine
  • airborne
  • medical planning

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  • Contributors KJS was responsible for the concept of the paper, collating and analysing the data and putting the paper together for submission. ES was responsible for collation of the US data. JL and Lt Col HJP helped shape the paper and highlighted points for discussion. Lt Col GN oversaw the writing of the paper and gave advice and points for discussion.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All UK and US data from the 2015 CJOAX JFE was included in this study. Any omissions are explained within the paper.

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