News: Mass casualty exercise preps new unit for success
Story by Spc. Richard Frost
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - The staff of the Golby Clinic at Camp Victory are departing after a one-year tour here. Before leaving, however, they must be certain that their replacements are up to the task.
That was the function of a mass casualty exercise held here Sept. 25 by members of the 520th Area Support Medical Company from Fort Lewis, Wash., and their replacements, the 550th ASMC from Fort Bragg, N.C.
The 520th ASMC must ensure that the new unit can handle any crisis or emergency that they may be faced with, according to Sgt. Jachen A. Smith, clinical shift leader, 550th ASMC.
"The outgoing unit has been here for 12 months and they have a wealth of knowledge," Smith said. "They are testing our response to an incident. They've thrown in scenarios that they've encountered to see how we would react to a similar event."
The scenario simulated was an indirect-fire attack on a dismounted patrol. Participants in the exercise played victims wounded in such an event. Scattered throughout a small area of date-palm trees, next to Lost Lake, the actors writhed and screamed as though their injuries were authentic. Clad with training aids designed to simulate everything from lost limbs to traumatic head injuries, their injuries appeared real.
The ambulances approached the scene as the drill continued. Personnel poured out of every door of the vehicles. Senior leaders began the task of assessing the scene to ensure the safety of the ambulance crews, while subordinates prepared themselves with medical bags and litters.
Medics worked to stabilize the mock-victims, and then under wailing sirens and flashing lights, were rushed to the Golby Clinic. There, staff was awaiting the arrival of the wounded.
"You're very nervous at first and you feel butterflies in your stomach as you wait for your patients," Pfc. Sierra Blandford, clinic staffer, 550th ASMC said. "As soon as they come in, though, and you can see what's wrong with them, your muscle memory kicks in."
After the string of wounded entered the clinic, the activity developed into well-organized chaos.
"To keep our heads on, we take deep breaths and just remember our roles," Blandford said. "Then, we listen to the doctors. They help you, they tell you what to do, while they're checking out the patients."
These doctors, in conjunction with a variety of staff from nurses, X-ray technicians, clerical staff and anesthetists, appeared calm as they attended each patient carefully. Some staff at the clinic took notes from the medics, assessed the patients as they entered, and provided care.
"Another purpose of the exercise is to test our preparedness on all levels, which includes your line medics all the way up to our senior providers," Smith said. "Everyone gets to play, everyone gets to test their skills. The object of it is to have highly skilled medical professionals that can respond to any event that could happen while we're in theater," he added.
"It was truly a great experience to witness our soldiers in action after training for the last year," Matthew Baller, 1st Sgt, 550th ASMC, said. "I have no doubt that we'll be very successful over the course of this deployment."