Bushmaster introduces students to chaotic scenarios they might encounter responding to medical emergencies. Health care providers, both civilian and military, might not always have access to the best infrastructure when providing care. Bushmaster provides the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Nursing students the opportunity to practice tactical combat casualty care under realistic conditions in an austere environment. The exercise includes a simulated month-long “deployment” in medical platoons where students plan and carry out support for combat operations in the notional country of Atropia.

SOM and GSN students, and frequently their international colleagues from allied partner military medical universities, respond to leadership and ethics challenges, mortar attacks, mass casualty exercises, and provide care under fire, while juggling the responsibilities of caring for populated villages, isolated from backup. Dental residents assemble field dental units and examine “patients” transported to them by student ‘forward surgical teams,’ describing necessary diagnostic tests and what treatment can be delivered in a deployed setting. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians train medical students using a canine simulator, helping them learn how to care for military dogs in a deployed setting. Students use telehealth connections in the field to consult with experts across the world.

While the field practicum challenges the students’ medical knowledge and skills, the underlying lesson is in leadership and teamwork. The conditions are stressful and students operate with little sleep in often challenging temperatures and conditions. They must handle competing priorities while working with a diverse team of colleagues, subordinates, and allied leaders, and make decisions that could have serious consequences for their patients and their platoon.

Watch the videoBushmaster: Teaching Leadership



Operation Bushmaster allows students to take on every role involved in a deployed unit. Understanding leadership in each of these roles is an essential part of the exercise. Watch the full Bushmaster Playlist  >


Michael Toedt

USU Alumni serve in a variety of leadership roles throughout the military and U.S. Public Health Service and Bushmaster plays a significant role in that development.   

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Bushmaster is a key component to the USU education.  Students rotate through a variety of leadership roles, which helps prepare them for assignments in a number of non-traditional leadership roles. 

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“I have now been involved in many mass casualty events, including being in downtown Manhattan on 11 September 2001. The lessons of Operation Bushmaster are enduring and, without a doubt, have saved countless lives when chaos attempted to win.”


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Mental health providers play a critical role in military operations, that’s why our Clinical Psychology degree program within the School of Medicine, and the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program within the Graduate School of Nursing, have been collaborating to ensure their students are prepared to provide that critical support.

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It’s been nearly 40 years since the first Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) field exercises were developed, and though the faculty, staff and scenarios have changed over time, the biggest exercise, Operation Bushmaster, is still meeting its intent: to help shape the next generation of career military medical officers and leaders.

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During this capstone exercise, students respond to mortar attacks, mass casualty exercises, and provide care under fire, while juggling the responsibilities of caring for populated villages, isolated from backup. They must handle competing priorities while making decisions and working with a diverse team of colleagues, subordinates and allied leaders.

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