By Eve Meinhardt/ParaglideMay 27, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - On May 19, staff at Joel, Robinson and Clark health clinics were surrounded by wounded and panicked individuals requiring assistance and medical aid.
However, the "casualties" were role players helping the clinics with a mass casualty exercise, with the event being part of routine training clinics undergo to ensure they are able to respond to such scenarios for real.
At Robinson and Clark, staff responded to a scenario where a bomb went off near the clinic and wounded Soldiers and Family members were brought into the clinic for care.
At Joel, the scenario brought the danger inside the clinic. Two shooters entered the clinic, racing through the hallways and leaving casualties in their wake. Staff members had to take cover or evacuate the clinic, waiting until the all clear was sounded and accountability was taken before they could reenter the building and care for the injured.
Sergeant 1st Class Ahmad Whitted, operations noncommissioned officer in charge at Joel, said that the active shooter training is good preparation for a situation the team hopes they will never have to face.
"The important thing is to always be prepared," said Whitted. "You never know when it will happen or if it will happen. But what happened at Fort Hood (Texas) and the recent bombing attempt in New York City reminds us that we always have to be ready for stuff like this."
This is not the first time the clinic staff has had active shooter training, but it is the first time they have conducted the training on such a large scale. Because the building that houses the health clinic is also home to four additional organizations, coordination was key in planning this training.
"All five of the organizations in this building report to a different higher headquarters," said Marsha Lunt, emergency manager, Joel Health Clinic. "All the occupants collaborated to work together to develop a plan for the building. This way there's a plan where all staff know what to do and can react together if something happened."
Ninety Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division assisted with the exercise and started getting prepped for their roles at 6 a.m., as moulage was applied to make their wounds appear realistic.
Twenty of the Soldiers were "shot" at Joel, while 10 of their peers wandered around. Some were in shock; others were interfering with medical care in progress, accusing medical staff of not doing enough and questioning their every move.
The staff did their job under the pressure of the situation presented. Triage areas were set up in regular clinic rooms and when all the gurneys were filled, office chairs helped move the patients from one room to another.
Marilyn Littlepage, a licensed practical nurse at Joel, said she thought the training was important.
"It was a good exercise. It's something we need, especially with everything going on in the world today," said Littlepage. "We need to be prepared for the possibility that there could be a shooter in the building or a mass casualty situation on Fort Bragg. It's important to know what to do and how to react."