News: Emergency personnel sharpen skills with mass casualty exercise
Story by Staff Sgt. Edward Daileg
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The sound of a massive explosion echoed throughout Forward Operating Base Union III as smoke billowed from the dining facility where a bomb wounded several service members and civilians.
Inspectors watched as first responders from civilian and military emergency crews rushed to provide medical assistance to the casualties.
Fortunately, this was only an exercise conducted by the force protection team at FOB Union III to assess emergency responders on their procedures and capability to treat casualties Aug. 17.
“The mass casualty exercise is to ensure we can execute our plan that is already in place and that all participants are aware of their roles and responsibilities,” said Stephen Berry, an installations manager for Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq.
“This will address any problems that we come across as we go through this exercise,” he said. “It will benefit everyone involved.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Sean Kohlmeyer, a native of Los Angeles and force protection non-commissioned officer in charge, United States Forces – Iraq, agreed with Berry.
“This exercise will increase their confidence as they familiarize themselves with the emergency procedures,” he said.
The exercise put the first responders’ and service members’ medical skills to use as several simulated casualties suffered from multiple injuries. The injured personnel required medical treatment at the FOB Union III Troop Medical Center and its neighboring treatment facilities.
“During a [mass casualty] you will have more casualties than your resources allow for you to treat all at once,” said Army Maj. Julie Ake, a native of Laurel, Md., and officer in charge of FOB Union III TMC, 520th Area Support Medical Company.
“There’s always a challenge in being able to select the seriously-injured individuals to provide pure clinical care,” she added.
Emergency crews also faced a different type of challenge, as a simulated unexploded ordnance was discovered at the scene.
Pfc. Scott Long, a health care specialist with 520th ASMC, was the first medic on site and quickly realized that time was not on their side.
“With a [unexploded ordnance] in front of the DFAC, emergency personnel cordoned off the area,” he said. “We had to get in there to get everyone one out as soon as possible to avoid more casualties.”
The exercise provided challenges for emergency personnel to improve their skills and knowledge about mass casualty procedures. It also gave volunteers an opportunity to be part of an event that might save people’s lives.
“This was the first time I participated in a mass casualty exercise with emergency personnel that weren’t military,” said Spc. Benito Gonzalez, from Vale, Ore., and a health care specialist with 520th ASMC. “It made me realize that communication was a key factor in this situation.”
Lance Cpl. Isreal Schafer, from Lebonon, Ind., and an administrative specialist with FOB Union III Mayor Cell, United States Forces–Iraq, emphasized how his role as a volunteer casualty helps emergency responders.
“Volunteering for this exercise helps medical personnel get the best simulation to train for such an event,” he said. “If I was in a real emergency, I would want them to have the confidence and experience to treat me.”