Camp Zama medics sharpen skills in mass casualty exercise

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsOctober 9, 2023

Sgt. Madilyn Jimenez, right, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock head injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Madilyn Jimenez, right, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock head injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members prepare to transport a patient by ambulance to the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members prepare to transport a patient by ambulance to the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sgt. Erick Menendez, right, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock leg injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. The three-hour exercise, which involved about a dozen organizations, provided realistic training to emergency responders.
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Erick Menendez, right, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock leg injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. The three-hour exercise, which involved about a dozen organizations, provided realistic training to emergency responders. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sgt. Alberto Martinez, left, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock head injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Alberto Martinez, left, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock head injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan leadership observe activities in an emergency operations center inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out an identification badge.)
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan leadership observe activities in an emergency operations center inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out an identification badge.) (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – As a surge of incoming patients were triaged, Spc. Duy Nguyen and several other medical personnel quickly practiced treating them as part of an earthquake disaster drill here Thursday.

The mass casualty exercise aimed to overwhelm the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic with more than 20 volunteers portraying patients with everything from minor to serious injuries.

While part of the urgent care team during the exercise, Nguyen handled various injuries from collapsed lungs to broken bones caused by falling objects.

“This whole event, for me, is a test of what I’m capable of and what I can do better,” said Nguyen, a combat medic assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan.

The three-hour exercise, which involved about a dozen organizations, provided realistic training to emergency responders, many of whom are assigned to MEDDAC-J.

The scenario for the exercise, held on the year of the 100th anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake, was an 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the local area, leaving many community members in need of medical treatment.

“The goal is to simulate a disaster that might happen right here in our neighborhood and to see how we can respond to that,” said Col. Jeremy Johnson, MEDDAC-J commander.

The exercise provided medical personnel, who had to focus on COVID-19 operations for the past few years, an opportunity to prepare for injuries that can occur in natural disasters as well as in combat.

“These exercises allow us to practice with the things that we don’t do on a regular basis,” Johnson said. “We generally do outpatient care here, but this allows us to practice the more severe cases and trauma cases.”

Medical personnel prepare to treat a volunteer who is portraying a pregnant patient with serious injuries during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Medical personnel prepare to treat a volunteer who is portraying a pregnant patient with serious injuries during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spc. Charles McNeill, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock foot injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. The three-hour exercise, which involved about a dozen organizations, provided realistic training to emergency responders.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Charles McNeill, who is assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity–Japan, treats a volunteer with a mock foot injury during a mass casualty exercise inside the BG Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. The three-hour exercise, which involved about a dozen organizations, provided realistic training to emergency responders. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan prepares to transport patients to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan prepares to transport patients to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan transports patients to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan transports patients to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka during a mass casualty exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

After initial treatment, some volunteers were transported to Kastner Airfield by a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force ambulance. From there, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan flew them to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka to simulate them receiving a higher level of care at its hospital.

Officials from two Japanese hospitals in Zama City and Ebina also observed the training and shared how their services could support a major disaster response.

“We are working together now to test the plans that we have made and also find out where are our gaps, so we can improve in the future,” said Stephen Matthews, medical emergency manager for MEDDAC-J.

Matthews said the exercise, which was the culmination of a year and a half of efforts, was one of the largest drills ever conducted by the clinic.

Additional personnel from U.S. Army Garrison Japan, U.S. Army Japan, Yokota Air Base Hospital, Army Medical Readiness Command–Pacific, and the Defense Health Agency also participated.

“We had many stakeholders involved in this and bringing them all together is just an incredible achievement,” Matthews said.

Sgt. Arhye Olavarria, a health care sergeant at the clinic, said the training event increased the readiness of everyone who took part in it.

In one of the examination rooms at the clinic, Olavarria and his team of medics honed their skills by simulating caring for a pregnant woman who had suffered significant injuries and another patient with a head injury.

“It's important for me and everybody here,” he said of the exercise, “because it really shows our capabilities and how we can help in an emergency situation.”

While the realistic exercise was intended to be stressful, Matthews said the lessons learned will better prepare participants for when a real disaster hits.

“This is not to frighten anybody, but to actually show and build confidence that we're trained, and we know how to respond,” he said. “It will be chaotic, but things will fall into place because we have conducted training.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

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