By Capt. Sibaria F. Taylor, Southeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group Public Affairs Office.February 13, 2011
Army Reserve Gears Up For Mass Attack
Reserve Medical Troops Prepare for the Worst During Exercise
Story and photos by Capt. Sibaria F. Taylor, Southeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group Public Affairs Office.
EDINBURGH, Ind. - Army Reserve Soldiers flooded into the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center to participate in the mass decontamination and casualty exercise known as Vibrant Response. The two-week simulated training exercise, that commenced July 12, was designed to train responders in dealing with the after-effects of a dirty bomb, and the hysteria that an event may trigger.
Warrior Medics with the 5010th and 4224th United States Army Hospitals (USAH) each participated in the exercise. They responded to thousands of casualties generated by the scenario while working outside the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind., 50 miles south of Camp Atterbury.
Each unit transported their own medical equipment between training centers as part of the exercise, giving them experience in loading their gear, convoying into an affected area and setting up treatment facilities once there.
"After 9-11 the world changed. We must prepare for any kind of catastrophic event," said Maj. Luis Ramos, a field surgeon with the 5010th. "It doesn't have to be chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack. It could be a natural disaster. We must be prepared (for anything) and that's what we are doing (here)," he added.
Vibrant Response is a field training exercise for a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high-yield explosive (CBRNE) consequence management response force (CMRF) or CCMRF for short. It is managed by U.S. Army North under the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).
About 3,500 people from 17 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico participated in the exercise and responded to a simulated detonation of a 10-kiloton radiological device - more commonly known as a dirty nuclear bomb.
Participants included military members as well as multi-level response teams from local, state, and federal levels, such as the federal emergency management agency (FEMA). All were involved in the exercise in an effort to hone their response times and medical skills in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in the U.S.
In his blog to his troops, NORTHCOM commander, Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. praised participants.
"This CCMRF, comprised of forces mainly from the Reserve component, responded to this demanding scenario magnificently and showed me that they will continue to have a significant role in our Nation's response capabilities"
As part of his civilian career, Maj. Ramos heads a chemical burning decontamination unit at Dwight Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon. He brought 53 Soldiers from the 5010th USAH, comprised of doctors, nurses, and medics to the Indiana event.
"For every casualty there will be five worried healthy people seeking assistance because they too believe that they have been exposed," said Ramos. "They will be seeking help at the health facilities as well which will overwhelm the system," he said as a reminder to his Soldiers to be prepared. Ramos has been an Army Reserve physician for 14 years.
This Vibrant Response exercise was the second event in a series of training for the CCMRF and Army Reserve Surgical Nurse, Capt. Teresa Rader. Rader, part of the 4224th USAH, says it gives her a chance to test her medical skills.
"I expected chaos, but mostly I was hoping to really learn what our role is," she said. "I don't think you can truly learn what your role is until you see it in practice. We need to be in a constant state of preparedness," she added.
Adm. Winnefeld, Jr. commended the mission's results.
"These CCMRF warriors proved beyond a doubt that they are superbly prepared for their challenging mission. I left Indiana firmly knowing what I believed all along -- that U.S. Army North and the members for the CCMRF are critical assets to the United States in response to a potentially catastrophic event."
While the Army Reserve Soldiers expressed excitement anticipating the first CBRNE casualty scenario, the sentiment was the same around the camp.
"We pray we never have to use the skills that we are learning and practicing, but if it [CBRNE attack] happens...we will just stand ready," said Staff Sergeant Maribel Brown, a licensed practical nurse with the 5010th USAH from San Antonio, Texas.
The 5010th USAH and 7224th USAH are part of the Southeast and Central Medical Area Readiness Support Group respectively, subordinate units under the Army Reserve Medical Command. They were assigned to the CCMRF mission based on their capabilities and the projected medical needs of the response forces and will continue to support it through 2011.
The Vibrant Response 10.2 exercise began July 10th and ended July 24th.
Editor's Note: Also contributing to the story was Lt. Col. William D. Ritter