Med group completes four-day exercise
By Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy , 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 03, 2009
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.