Soldiers from Puerto Rico provide Vibrant Response
August 3, 2012
Camp Atterbury, Ind. - Approximately 60 soldiers assigned to the 311th Mortuary Affairs Battalion, US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, based in Aguadilla, participate in the exercise Vibrant Response, an interagency training managed by the US Northern command, from July 27 to August 16, through which a response to a nuclear attack to United States is simulated.
"This exercise requires that the personnel, who come to help after a nuclear attack, must be ready to receive people with wounds, to decontaminate them and to make sure they are properly treated. Unfortunately, in a nuclear attack scenario, it is estimated that there will be individuals dying and it is there where the mortuary affairs units are involved," said Ovila Dionne, Clinical Advisor for US Northern Command.
The purpose of the Vibrant Response exercise is to test the capability of the federal Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response forces to meet the expectations of our Nation.
"Let's say we have a nuclear device that goes off in a big city. The first group of people responding will be the police and the fire department. Once they get to the point when they feel overwhelmed, they call the National Guard and later the Army Reserve," said Dionne.
The realism with which the training is conducted is paramount for the success of the operation.
"We will have 350 medical mannequins and 300 civilian role-players to portray injured residents," said Al Garcia from the US Northern Command Training Directorate.
"Along with damaged buildings, rubble piles, wrecked vehicles, smoke and flame effects, they create an incredibly realistic environment for training,"added Garcia.
The mortuary affairs units play a critical role during the training, not only recovering remains, but also helping to create a realistic environment.
"The mission of the 311th Mortuary Affairs Battalion is to reproduce visually the type of wounds that patients would encounter in a nuclear attack. Mortuary Affairs soldiers know what a blast injury looks like, they know what an amputation looks like in a patient," said Dionne.
This is not the first time when soldiers from the 311th Mortuary Affairs Battalion collaborates with civilian authorities, in response to emergencies in the homeland.
In 2001, soldiers assigned to the 311th were mobilized to the Pentagon within 72 hours, and performed recovering remains along with personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, after the terrorist attacks.
"I can take back from this experience to Puerto Rico the experience and the knowledge of the agencies needed to be able to function or help with a mass casualty event and the organization that would be needed," said Sgt. 1st Class Jorge De la Cruz, 311th Quartermaster Battalion, senior noncommissioned officer.
"It is important to the 1st MSC to have us here because now we have the knowledge of what we need to do in case we have a mass casualty event or a national disaster in Puerto Rico, which is possible, since we are a tropical island," added De la Cruz.
The role of performed by the US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico troops takes a new relevancy due to the Congress Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes Reserve forces to be mobilized in support of emergencies or natural disasters in the local communities.