By Sgt. Gregory Williams, 353rd Civil Affairs Command Public AffairsAugust 26, 2014
POSTOJNA, Slovenia (Aug. 26, 2014) -- The U.S. hosts many field training exercises to simulate scenarios based on actual situations a unit or brigade might face. After a week of academic classes, U.S. service members and multi-national soldiers took the lessons learned from the classroom to respond to disasters in the field as day one of exercise Immediate Response 14 FTX began.
During exercise Immediate Response 14, more than 100 multi-nationals responded to four mass casualty response scenarios here, yesterday. The goal of the field training exercise is to sharpen the skills of the participants in response to a natural disaster.
"This situation is pretty rare where you can work in a real-world situation and see what mistakes you're making," said Pfc. David Muhic, an explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, expert with the Slovenian Armed Forces EOD platoon. "I learn more by doing hands-on training, because if I do something once, I'm able to pick it up faster than if I sit in a class."
During one scenario, U.S. Navy Sailors and Slovenian EOD soldiers disarmed two pieces of ordnance, which were unearthed by the aftershock of a 7.5 earthquake. The service members were tested on their communication, marking and response techniques.
"The U.S. and Slovenian EOD programs have similar tactics, but I've picked up some security techniques that I can take to future training exercises" Muhic said. "I like the field training because we learn a lot, and it makes the time go by faster."
After the response to mass casualty portion was completed, multi-national medical personnel were tested on their competency to administer level one first aid to role-players, with observer controllers testing them on multiple medical tasks.
Sgt.1st Class Ahmad R. Whitted, an Immediate Response 14 observer and controller with the Joint Multinational Training Center, said his 20-year experience as a U.S. Army medic helped him pass on knowledge that might be beneficial to natural disaster responders.
"Teamwork is key," Whitted said. "When everyone comes from a different background and has a different way of thinking, but falls in line with one person in charge. We all want to work to accomplish the mission. This is one thing everyone can take away from this."
Whitted said he was impressed with how well U.S. service members and multi-nationals overcame language barriers and the receptiveness of multi-national soldiers who are not used to working with other countries.
"In the [U.S.] Army, everyone speaks the same lingo and knows the same doctrine, but with seven different countries and seven different languages, there's a hindrance in communication" Whitted said. "Everyone has come here with the same mindset and has had one goal so it's been awesome just working together and bouncing ideas off one another."
After several hours of training, soldiers who were designated to a specific area of operation met within their respective teams, getting feedback and results from observers who watched their every move.
"With someone else watching me and pointing out what I'm doing wrong, it will help me when we're putting together our after action review, but the knowledge and experience I also got will help make me a better soldier," Muhic said.
Muhic said the experience from the scenario helped in building confidence and he will not only perform better as a soldier, but also as a natural disaster responder if he's ever called to duty.
After a day filled with helicopter medical evacuations, and search-and-rescue team operations, smiling faces and congratulatory handshakes could be seen around the training areas.
"I love it all, just working with people from other nations and coming together to experience the exercise, so when we do respond to any kind of disaster, everyone already has an idea about what to do," Whitted said. "It's just great with everyone knowing their roles and responsibilities."
The skills gained from field training exercises help soldiers when they're deployed to various operations around the world. Some participants of Immediate Response 14 hope they won't ever have to use what they've learned, but will always stand ready to deploy when a disaster hits.