First responders prep for worst
March 13, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq- With loudspeakers sounding an alarm, a corner of Pad 4 at Camp Liberty transformed into a dire scene. Fifteen Soldiers, acting as victims, lay scattered across the ground, crying out in pain from simulated chest wounds, amputations, abdominal injuries and a myriad of other trauma scenarios.
The March 6 exercise tested the Soldiers with 326th Area Support Group, Taskforce Jayhawk, and the capabilities of Victory Base Complex Command's emergency services teamwork, response and reaction to indirect fire events.
"We want to replicate reality as best as we can," said Maj. William Vanden Bergh, operations officer for the 326th ASG, who helped coordinate the exercise.
Moments after the alarm sounded, distant sirens from the Rapid Response Team vehicles were heard making their way to the scene. Their job is to secure the area and provide first aid until medical personnel arrive on scene.
"We're in the vehicles driving around 24 hours a day," said Patrick Connolly, a contractor with the RRT. "Whenever an incident of any kind happens, we go straight to that scene and cordon it off."
"Because we're usually the first ones on the scene, giving medical attention is primary, but without the proper equipment you can only do so much," said Christopher Ilardi, a medic for the RRT from Memphis.
But, that kind of help and equipment isn't far behind. Within moments, firefighters and medics arrived and to assess and triage victims. Teams shout out codes and colors that categorized the victims into medical priorities. Using stretchers or buddy-carries, response team members separated and moved victims into a casualty collection point.
According to VandenBergh, all of this activity is what the exercise is about. The end result is to work together, coordinate between response teams, clear the area and get victims to the nearest medical facility.
That is a goal that seems to be shared by all the players.
"The purpose of this is to know how to correspond with other organizations, to get the patients out as quick as possible and as safe as possible," said firefighter Tarren Smith, a native of Houston who works for White Fire Emergency Services.
And for this exercise, safety is at the Riva Ridge Troop Medical Clinic. At Riva Ridge, combat medics shift into high gear. It is an extension of the controlled chaos seen at Pad 4, with medical staff barking out a mix of medical and military jargon. And although the location has changed, the goal is still the same - assess and take care of victims as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"This is why we train, just in case a real-world situation happens we will be prepared for the influx of patients that come," said Sgt. Jason Lucas, a combat medic from Bronx, N.Y., of Company C, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division.
Two hours after the mass casualty exercise began; medics at Riva Ridge put the final touches on trauma dressings and other injuries. Back on Pad 4, firefighters washed down concrete walls to decontaminate the area, and the RRT packed up their first aid bags and gathered up the yellow caution tape used to cordon off the simulated impact site. Victims removed their simulated injuries, wiped off their bruise make up and headed back to their regular duties.
Now the real work for VandenBergh and his staff begins. According to VandenBergh, the Base Command will conduct an after action review to find what went well and what areas need more effort. Within the next month, there will be more mass casualty exercises to validate the new synchronized contingency plan. But the goal still remains the same - working together to save lives.