News: MASCAL exercise tests medics' mettle
Story by Capt. Garrett Gandia
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan— On a wet and windy February morning, hours before dawn, U.S. Army Soldiers and civilians were stirred from their sleep. A loud voice from the airfield's public announcement system sounded: "CODE PURPLE. CODE PURPLE. ACTIVATE ALL CCPS. ACTIVATE ALL CCPS," Feb. 26.
The medics on shift at the Task Force Falcon Aid Station spilled from the medical facility. Medical personnel across Camp Albert rushed from their plywood shacks with medical supplies and aid-bags in hand to assess casualties. Bodies were strewn about with wounds exposed, the red liquid staining uniforms and the muddy ground alike. Commotion ensues as medics transported the wounded to the casualty collection points, while trying to calm shock-ridden Soldiers in the general vicinity.
At the casualty collection point doctors, physician's assistants, medics and combat life savers worked diligently to stabilize casualties and prepare them for transportation to the next echelon of treatment. Screams and the sound of running field litter ambulance engines pierced the once-serene morning air.
The scene is raucous, yet controlled. Too real to be a vivid dream, but disingenuous to be reality. The "wounds" are prosthetics, the "blood" is theatrical, and the casualties are Soldiers role playing different casualty situations during a mass casualty exercise, conducted simultaneously across the base.
Weeks of planning have led up to this base-wide exercise to assess the confidence and competence of Bagram's medical personnel. Task Force Cyclone coordinated for the simultaneous MASCAL exercise to encompass the combined efforts of the TF Falcon Aid Station, the Navy operated Bagram Theater Internment Facility, the Air Force operated Craig Joint Theater Hospital and the 82nd Special Troops Battalion along with additional support coming from various civilian agencies and a medical cell from the United Arab Emirates.
This was the first base-wide MASCAL exercise TF Falcon has been involved in since arriving in theater in the fall of 2009.
However, "Medical readiness and appropriate reaction time during a MASCAL are perishable skills and it is imperative to continue to practice, in the event of a real MASCAL emergency" said U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Sullivan, a TF Workhorse, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade , TF Falcon medic.
"Continued MASCAL evacuation drills are getting Soldiers used to MASCAL situations," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Denney Choate, TF Falcon medical operations noncommissioned officer and who helped plan the MASCAL exercise for TF Falcon Soldiers at Bagram Airfield. "[The importance of these drills are] getting Soldiers ready so they're not wondering what to do at the last minute."
"This exercise was designed to ensure all medical personnel are capable and comfortable in their medical skills and tasks," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Charmaine Howard, TF Workhorse assistant medical NCOIC and a participant in the MASCAL exercise.
From the TF Workhorse perspective the MASCAL exercise served as the validation of months, and perhaps years, of preparation by the doctors, medics and combat life savers. Training is at the heart of any military event, and preparations for the MASCAL exercise was no different.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Cardona, TF Workhorse medical platoon sergeant and senior medic in the battalion, applied outside-the-box thinking when developing the TF Workhorse combat life saver program at Bagram Airfield. One piece of equipment that was most familiar to the medics and combat life savers during the MASCAL exercise was the Warrior Aid and Litter Kit.
"Sergeant [Victor] Stepper and I added the WALK to the existing CLS to integrate additional medical technologies to the curriculum," said Cardona. "This exercise proved the mettle of the medics and has definitely raised the bar on how MASCAL exercises should be run."