Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> Training for the unexpected

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 225 airmen participated in an exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base Feb. 19 in which two exercise scenarios – an anti-hijacking and terrorist weapon of mass destruction hospital attack – were created to train service members for possible real-world situations.

The large scale exercise was one of four required emergency management exercises. The base is required four times yearly to exercise the airmen’s ability to respond to various attacks and natural disasters, said Maj. Adrienne Williams, 19th Airlift Wing chief of wing exercises and evaluations.

Airmen are able to train, practice their abilities and test themselves to prepare for real world scenarios through the exercises they experience. They are then able to find out in what areas they respond well and what areas they should practice in further.

Before the exercise kicked off, Williams explained a bit about the exercise and its importance to the training of the airmen.

“We want to train the way we’re going to fight. Each exercise is based on a different scenario and we have a list of items that we have to cover. This one focuses on terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and anti-hijacking whereas the next one might be a natural disaster,” said Williams.

This exercise was an opportunity for the base to work side-by-side with local fire, medical and law enforcement agencies to help strengthen operational processes.

According to Williams, during real world situations the base would work with these local agencies, so having the opportunity to train with them allows the base to understand how it can more effectively accomplish missions together as a team.

The airmen exercised with the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics team during this exercise. The base has not exercised with them since 1996, so this was a terrific opportunity for service members to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement agencies. There was also support from Jacksonville Fire Department, Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services and the local hospitals, said Major Williams.

The firefighters were part of the first responder’s team along with Security Forces. Once they arrived they assessed the scene and started putting out fires and securing the area.

To prepare for the exercise, volunteers playing injured patients in the hospital attack assembled at Bldg. 430 where they were given patient tags and moulage – mock injuries for the purpose of training – by four exercise evaluation team members.

The patient tags identified the volunteers by their injuries and allowed them to have an alternate identity instead of using their actual ID cards. This was a way to ensure that the patients had the proper symptoms throughout the exercise so the medical personnel could properly treat them.

The evaluators prepared the volunteers for the exercise and then evaluated the performance of the responders throughout the exercise to make sure they used the proper procedures.

Master Sgt. Shannon Sandoval, 19th Medical Group medical services flight NCO in charge and an evaluator, explained the role of an evaluator while she applied moulage to the volunteers.

“We do the moulage and then we evaluate how the medical providers respond to the injuries and see if they are doing the appropriate medical care and have a true sense of urgency. Also, if they triage patients correctly and determine whether they have to be transported out or if they can take care of them in the facility,” she said.

The role of the players in the exercise was to simulate injuries after the attack and wait for medical personnel to treat their injuries. If the players weren’t treated in a timely manner their conditions would worsen and potentially result in death.

As Tech. Sgt. Raymond Riley, 19th Medical Support Squadron resource management NCO in charge, applied an abdomen laceration to the left side of a volunteer he explained why these exercises are conducted.

“[Exercises are used] to make sure the people we’re serving and everyone is ready to respond to these situations, as rare as they are. It gives people the opportunity [to learn from] a hands-on situation, as though they were really dealing with the injury,” said Riley.

“There’s a lot more injuries than in a normal exercise. We have a lot of players. (We’ve given moulage) facial lacerations, deep vein injuries, smoke inhalation and some impaled objects, such as bomb fragments,” said Tech. Sgt. Pete Johnson, 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering assistant NCO in charge and an evaluator.

As Master Sgt. Sherri Dietrich, 19th Medical Group family-practice flight chief and an evaluator, simulated a leg laceration by putting wax on the leg of 2nd Lt. Casey Fallon, a 714th Training Squadron student, she explained that applying the make-up to the players in the exercise helped simulate real world injuries, making the exercise more realistic for everyone involved. Lieutenant Fallon added that it adds a more life-like touch, which in turn creates more motivation for the medical personnel to treat their symptoms.

According to Williams, the airmen showed their professionalism and teamwork with the community by their timely and skilled performance during the exercise.

“Little Rock Air Force Base successfully exercised the anti-hijacking scenario and terrorist hospital attack. Initiative and teamwork were prevalent throughout the exercise,” she said. “All received excellent training and community ties were strengthened.”