03 October, 2023
Transporting casualties, trauma care, CPR, medical evacuation logistics and communication – everything that makes up the expertise of a Defence Force first aider is put to the test in the Waterhouse competition.
The Waterhouse Trophy is a biennial Tri-Service first aid competition, in which teams are confronted with a number of training scenarios designed to challenge both the physical and mental components of military first aid. Fire and Emergency New Zealand submitted the only non-New Zealand Defence Force team, while 2/1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment fielded the only non-health team.
Run by Defence Health Organisation, this year’s event – the 75th anniversary of the competition – was hosted at the Police College in Porirua.
Officer in Charge, Lieutenant Aidan Bilbe, said the competition got underway in howling wind and pouring rain.
“The teams really hit their stride and enjoyed the new twist on a competition which first ran 75 years ago.” Normally teams of four, this year the teams were reduced to three, creating a resourcing challenge for life-saving duties in each scenario. “And there were plenty more twists to keep those soldiers who had competed in the past on their toes.”
As well as dealing with trauma and organising handovers and evacuation of patients, teams were quizzed on first aid and brain-twisting logic puzzles.
Able Medic Olivia Jones, who is in her final year of medic branch training for the Royal New Zealand Navy, said it was heaps of fun.
“They picked the class who had done the most branch training, to compete. We were on the bus at 0445 and the first round started at 0600.”
She said the tasks were pretty testing, notably the stretcher challenge which required teams to hoist a heavily-weighted stretcher to the top of a tower. “And the puzzles were pretty hard,” she said.
Able Medic Jones had recently done a substantial medic exercise in Tekapo, and said her team was in the zone for the variety of scenarios and fake blood which came their way.
Originally from Tauranga, Able Medic Jones joined the Navy after “hearing good yarns” from her grandfather, a former Navy man. She expects to graduate from medic training in November.
Lieutenant Colonel Kelvin McMillan, Commanding Officer Defence Health Organisation, said within a military context, treatment received in the first 10 minutes can have a significant impact on the survivability of a casualty.
“Their skills as a first aider or first responder put simply, saves lives,” he said.
The Waterhouse competition began in the 1940s in Wellington, between 13 field ambulance sub-units. Since the Vietnam War, the competition has included memorial trophies dedicated by the families of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps and Royal New Zealand Air Force medics who have been killed on military operations.