MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. -- Mortuary affairs Soldiers from 311th Quartermaster Company, 1st Mission Support Command, help to prepare and produce precise and detailed patient casualty scenarios through their medical knowledge and trained artistic abilities Aug. 1 during the Vibrant Response 13-2 exercise.
The 311th is an Army Reserve unit from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. VR13-2 is a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). The exercise runs through Aug. 17 and takes place at various venues around southern and central Indiana.
VR13-2 allows Soldiers, Marines, Airman and civilians from the military and other federal and state agencies throughout the country to participate in and assess their skills and ability to respond to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear incident in the homeland. Although mortuary affairs specialist duty normally applies to the dignified preparation and care of deceased people, during VR13-2, their job is to become sci-fi movie-like make-up artists and make mannequins and human role players look injured to add realism to the scenario they are assigned to. This is called "moulage."
"Everything we learn about moulage, we learn here in this training environment," said Pfc. Jose Roman, mortuary affairs specialist, 311th Quartermaster Co. "We use three different colors of gel: clear, tan and red, which is also non-toxic to make moulage. The 'bones' are made out of clay, and we also use make-up to help create the injury. It's our job to make the mannequins look as professional and as realistic as possible because you never know what you can face in a real emergency."
Mannequins are used during the scenario when it is not safe to use a person and to give the units more "victims." When an incident happens, the first people on the ground are "first responders."
First responders are responsible for identifying injuries based on the stage the wound appears to be in. Displaying different types of burns, shrapnel injuries and broken bones are just a few injuries that can be made from the moulage used on the life-size manikins.
"Let us say there's a radiation accident; patients who are close to the blast area might be blind, hard of hearing, have radiation burns, thermal burns or shrapnel injuries," said Skip Deon, a retired nuclear medical science officer. "You have to look at the entire accident and consider situations where people are looking for insulin because they are diabetic or people with nitroglycerin because they have heart problems and issues such as this."
He said the team also has to plan for scenarios involving babies, children, pregnant women in addition to matters such as outbreaks of communal diseases, such as whooping cough, measles and other diseases.
Simulating real-life disasters helps keep first responders trained and ready to respond to many different situations our population may face.
Deon said he felt it was important to make the injuries look as life-like as possible to provide a sense of realism for those in the exercise scenario.
"You don't treat all injuries the same," said Deon, adding that if his team doesn't set the conditions right in its simulations then the responders may not have the proper preparation to do their jobs correctly in a real-life event.
"This is why our job is so important," he concluded.