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Med group completes four-day exercise

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Airman is decontaminated by 30th Medical Group personnel during the Medical Emergency Response Capabilities Assessment Jan. 26. Patients must be triaged and sanitized before safely being treated. This is a week long exercise showcasing what the 30th MDG has learned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Airman is decontaminated by 30th Medical Group personnel during the Medical Emergency Response Capabilities Assessment Jan. 26. Patients must be triaged and sanitized before safely being treated. This is a week-long exercise showcasing what the 30th MDG has learned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Suzy Evans, 30th Medical Group, sanitizes a contaminated Airman during the In-Place Patient Decontamination training, Jan. 26. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Suzy Evans, 30th Medical Group, sanitizes a contaminated Airman during the In-Place Patient Decontamination training, Jan. 26. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the 30th Medical Group move an injured patient using a stretcher during the Medical Emergency Response Capabilities Assessment and Training exercise Jan. 29 here. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the 30th Medical Group move an injured patient using a stretcher during the Medical Emergency Response Capabilities Assessment and Training exercise Jan. 29 here. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --    30th Medical Operations Squadron Airman, applies moulage makeup for a simulated neck injury, on volunteer Technical Sgt. David Rice, 30th Space Wing Space Communication Squadron, for the Medical Emergency Response Capability Assessment and Training exercise, here Jan 29.    The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- 30th Medical Operations Squadron Airman, applies moulage makeup for a simulated neck injury, on Tech. Sgt. David Rice of the 30th Space Communication Squadron for the Medical Emergency Response Capability Assessment and Training exercise, here Jan 29. The four-day exercise was intended to test Airmen on their ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack on the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two Airmen from the 30th Medical Operations Squadron simulate decontamination of a base volunteer patient for the Medical Emergency Response Capability Assessment and Training exercise, here Jan. 29. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two Airmen from the 30th Medical Operations Squadron simulate decontamination of a base volunteer patient for the Medical Emergency Response Capability Assessment and Training exercise, here Jan. 29. The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. -- Senior Airman Adam Hanson collects a sample of the spill to place it on the decontamination machine at the MERCAT exercise held at Coheo Park.  The MERCAT is a training and exercise program designed to enhance the ability of Air Force Space Command Home Station Medical Response Teams to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear events. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Adam Hanson works to identify an unknown substance at the Mercat Exercise held at Cocheo Park. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Medical Group conducted a Medical Emergency Response Capability Assessment and Training exercise Jan. 29 at the base clinic and Cocheo Park here.

The four-day exercise involved nearly the entire clinic staff and was conducted in three phases, including classroom and hands-on training. The final phase was the actual field exercise in which nearly 100 Airmen sustained various levels of mock injury following a simulated attack on the base.

The exercise's intent is to test the group's Airmen on their ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack on the base.

"The key component for this week's exercise is to boost readiness in case of a mass-casualty event," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Calder, one of the MERCAT cadre from Air Force Space Command. "We want to train the medical group in how to better handle a scenario that is overwhelming to them and their capabilities."

While the scenario was an exercise of the overall 30th MDG capabilities, an important aspect of the training was to show the medical responders some things they may have not seen before.

"The Airmen are going to be stressed in this environment because they're going to be doing things they aren't typically involved with," Colonel Calder said. "And watching people die in front of them is not something they see in day-to-day clinic activities ... it can be quite traumatic for them."

In an effort to keep the scenario as realistic as possible, a team was constructed to create the moulage to be used for the exercise. Moulage is the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training medical professionals.

Tech. Sgt. Larry Knight, a public health technician and the moulage team chief, and his five-person team started conceptualizing what they would need for the MERCAT in October and have spent after-hours time creating the moulage kits by hand.

"We've never done more than about 20 moulage patients before," Sergeant Knight said. "We had three hours to do about 70 this morning. It's been quite an experience."

The moulage allows the medical professionals involved to get an idea of what some of these injuries may look like up close and not just something they may read about in a book. The mock injuries are varied in their extremes to broaden the experience for the Airmen involved.

"These add to the realism for the first-responders," Sergeant Knight said. "Most places use wax; however, we use gel effects which make things much more realistic. Some items, like eye injuries, we are simulating because of safety concerns, but, overall, we are creating minor things like cuts, bruises, blisters and burns, all the way up to major injuries like protruding debris and amputations."

And since the actors look the part, the MERCAT cadre work to ensure the actors play the part properly.

"We've had doctors come and explain to the actors how they should portray a specific injury," Sergeant Knight said. "Hopefully we have some academy award winners out there, because that's just going to add to the chaos and the realism of a mass casualty event. We want to push (the first responders) to the limits."

Ultimately, the 30th MDG will the exercise to identify and overcome weaknesses in their established plans and procedures.