MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania - An M1A1 Abrams tank and a fuel tanker carrying thousands of gallons of highly toxic and flammable fuel collide, causing a massive explosion with several simulated casualties.
This scenario is what Army first responders encountered as part of an emergency response exercise on August 21, 2019, on Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, Romania.
"This is the very first time we have executed such an event like this here," said Arthur Smith, a Department of Defense civilian and the Installation Management Command Garrison Operations Officer for MK AB. "We wanted to identify what our strengths are and what our shortcomings were. Once we identify those shortcomings, we can create a plan on how we can tie up those loose ends in the future in case something like this happens for real."
The goal of the training was to conduct a safe and successful exercise which challenges and prepares base personnel to manage and prepare for a mass casualty event, whether it be a natural disaster, accident, terrorist or insider threat situation.
Exercises like this also allow the Army Support Activity Black Sea and MK AB garrison staff to develop reaction and contingency plans for real-world situations regarding base emergencies.
As soon as the military police and firefighters arrived on the scene, they had to assess the situation and decide what actions to take first.
"I was one of the first responders today to the vehicle on vehicle collision," said Sgt. Phillip Frutos, a military policeman and patrol supervisor with the 313th Military Police Detachment, "When we got there, I was tasked with retrieving and treating casualties from the immediate hazardous area."
At the simulated collision sight, Soldiers provided care to the casualties and moved them to a casualty collection point. From there, they were taken by ambulance to the on-base clinic. After arriving at the clinic, the casualties were treated by Army medical personnel and then taken to the airfield to be transported via a helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The aviation unit simulated a flight path to the nearby hospital.
"Exercises like this help develop working relationships between the military police, fire department, the troop medical clinic and the aviation unit here on post," said Frutos. "It's also important because it allows me to develop myself as a leader as well as my Soldiers on their individual tasks."
Since this was the first time an exercise like this was conducted, a lot of planning occurred with everyone involved, said Smith.
"Being located in a forward-deployed area, we don't have all the [resources] a normal garrison in the United States has to facilitate training exercises like this," said Smith. "We have to rely on our rotational units here to support us with additional equipment, vehicles, and personnel so we can create as much as a realistic experience as possible. We could not have done an exercise like this without them."
The emergency response exercise was used as a learning experience for all the sections and personnel stationed at the MK AB.
"It's imperative we do stuff like this," said Smith. "This is a perfect training opportunity for everyone involved. The staff section gets trained, the rotational units are able to see how the garrison plans things like this and sees how they respond to emergencies. Doing this builds invaluable relationships between everyone involved."