FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers with the 566th Area Support Medical Company conducted field training March 17-19 to certify them for their assumption of the Defense CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive) Reactionary Force mission.
The DCRF mission consists of 5,500 active and reserve soldiers trained to assist civilian first responders in the event of a domestic catastrophic CBRN event. The reactionary force deploys with medical, aviation, communications, logistical, decontamination, and search and rescue units to aid the civilian population affected by the crisis.
“This training is important for my soldiers because you never know when a catastrophic event may strike the United States, and it’s important for my soldiers to know how to treat the civilian population and save lives,” said Kristy Cortner, the first sergeant for the 566th Area Support Medical Company, 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade and a Tallahassee, Fla., native.
During the exercise, personnel from U.S. Army North helped facilitate the training by providing evaluation and feedback to Soldiers conducting the exercise.
“The 566th ASMC will receive a TPE [training proficiency evaluation],” said James Barkley, the U.S. Army North Command Division Chief from Columbus, Ohio. “They have to receive a TPE to assume the DCRF mission on Oct. 1 for the new fiscal year.”
Alongside the 566th ASMC was the 44th Chemical Company, which is currently on the DCRF mission. The unit participated in the exercise as a way to stay proficient in the skills necessary to conduct mass casualty decontamination operations.
“We, as a chemical unit, would work with other units to provide mass-casualty decontamination to the civilian populace affected by the event,” said Staff Sgt. Frederick Hillard, a chemical operations specialist from New Orleans with the 44th Chemical Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade.“This type of training helps us get accustomed to working with medical units, military and civilian police, and EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] units.”
It helps when both the chemical and medical units are working side-by-side because that’s how it would be in an actual event, said Barkley. The chemical unit would decontaminate the casualty then move them to the medical station for further assistance.
“Two units working together toward one common goal — mass-casualty decontamination,” Barkley said.
“Help us please,” shouted the civilian role players during the training exercise. The civilian role players help add a level of realism for the soldiers conducting the training.
“The role payers are told to act as if a “real-world” explosion just occurred, and they are trying to receive help,” Hillard said. “It helps us have a realistic view and a sense of urgency that ordinarily wouldn’t exist in a regular training environment with mannequins.”
Cortner added, “If the Soldiers don’t have real patients to treat, they won’t be prepared for an actual occurrence with the civilian population; it always helps the soldiers to know that we have to push 29 ambulatory [capable of walking] and 40 non-ambulatory [not capable of walking] patients an hour through our medical stations.”
With role players and other equipment set-up during the field training exercise, the Soldiers appreciate the realism of the training.
“This training is critically important because we are transitioning to a non-combat Army, and the focus will shift to Homeland security,” said Cortner. “The soldiers will need to know how to treat patients in a highly stressful environment.”
“We do this training every year to certify, and we rehearse at least once a quarter; so if a catastrophic event occurs, we are prepared,” Hillard said.