By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsAugust 17, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 17, 2018) -- The annual full-scale emergency readiness exercise, held within Fort Drum's training area Aug. 15-16, presented not one, but two worst-case scenarios that required the post's first responders and emergency personnel to work with their counterparts from neighboring communities to resolve the crises.
The first part of the exercise involved a multi-vehicle accident that resulted in dozens of -- simulated -- casualties.
Thirty-five Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, served as role-players in a head-on collision between two Light Medium Tactical Vehicles and a Humvee. Some of them donned torn and bloodied uniforms and fake flesh wounds to add authenticity to the situation. When the exercise commenced, Staff Sgt. Alexander Perez and Staff Sgt. Thor Warfle, the two noncommissioned officers in charge at the scene who suffered only minor wounds, initiated first aid, kept account of all the injuries and notified Range Control of the situation.
"If you can hurry up, sir, we've got some really bad casualties out here with serious injuries," Warfle said when he placed the call for help. "We're going to need some special equipment, a ton of litters -- it's a pretty open area so you'll be able to get a bird in here."
Warfle continued to provide all the pertinent information needed to get first responders informed.
"It's a good exercise for all of our emergency services here to test their capabilities," Warfle said, before the exercise commenced. "The more realistic, the better. They want it to be as close to real-world as possible."
The Soldiers did their part to that end -- howling in agony, responding appropriately to first responders' questions and reacting in pain to being moved. Some of the observers/controllers on site were impressed with how well the role players contributed to the exercise.
"I think it's very fulfilling to help our emergency services test their abilities and identify what they can do better, because it can save lives if this were to happen in real life," Warfle said.
Jeff Walters, Fort Drum range inspector, was first on the scene and managed the situation as best he could without any medical supplies in his vehicle. If it weren't a simulated exercise, he said he would have given the shirt off his back to help an injured Soldier. In this case, the belt off his pants would have to suffice as a tourniquet for one of casualties.
"You kind of have to block out the screaming and yelling all around and focus on the people who are unconscious and not breathing and need the most help," he said. "If someone's bleeding out, you have to put a tourniquet on them. There were others who weren't too bad, and I was trying to tell them what they can do to help their buddies."
Walters said that he was able to relinquish command of the site once the game warden arrived and was briefed. Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services, civilian law enforcement and Soldiers from the 91st Military Police Battalion followed soon after and Assistant Chief Robert Denney assumed control as the incident commander.
Fort Drum first responders were assisted by off-post partners, to include Carthage Area Rescue Squad and Natural Bridge Ambulance. A crew from 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, supported the air evacuation mission to take casualties to Carthage Area Hospital and Samaritan Medical Center.
The second incident was a search-and-rescue operation involving an outdoorsman suffering a diabetic attack deep in the cantonment area authorized for hunting. His wife, upon discovering that he had left his diabetes medicine at home, alerted Range Control of the situation and the search ensued. The hunter could not be located solely by post personnel, and the operation expanded to include Range Control, Military Police, DES, State Police and Forest Rangers. The search continued through a thunderstorm, and lasted late in the evening until the hunter was found.
Previous exercises on post included a helicopter crash, a train car derailment and active shooter scenarios. John Simard, Fort Drum antiterrorism officer, said they always attempt realistic, but complex, exercises that also meet annual required training requirements.
He devised this year's exercise and said that the reason for developing a two-part exercise was to ensure Fort Drum's response capabilities were exceeded and that it required mutual aid assistance from community counterparts.
"It is critical that we train together, that we understand each other's techniques and procedures and with an end state of saving lives," Simard said. "That's what it's all about."