Pease Airmen participate in multi-state disaster training exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Vezeau
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

Forty-five Airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing joined Army and Air National Guardsmen from three New England states to participate in a medical rapid response training exercise in Brunswick, Maine, Nov. 4 - 8.

The exercise simulated the collapse of a chemical manufacturing facility and provided guardsmen the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills required for the medical management of casualties.

Maj. Robert Howe, a physician with the 157th Medical Group, said one of the benefits of the training event was the fluidity of the featured scenario, which forced participants to respond exactly as they would in an actual disaster.

“It’s sort of an epidemiological puzzle in terms of we’re seeing, people with x, y and z symptoms,” said Howe.

Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island guardsmen with the New England-based Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package participated. The unit comprises five operational elements, including search and extraction, mass decontamination, medical, fatalities recovery, and command and control.

The operation was conducted at two separate and distinctly different training sites.

The main site featured command and control, mass decontamination, medical and fatalities recovery elements. Tents were erected, at which medical personnel triaged patients.

A second area featured a large pile of rubble used by search and rescue workers. Soldiers with the 861st Engineer Company collaborated with 157th Medical Group Airmen and employed search and recovery techniques, such as rappelling, moving debris and drilling through concrete.

A key tool used in the exercise to connect the training sites was the National Guard CBRN Incident Management System, a web-based communications program which enabled better visibility of participants.

“This [system] adds a whole new side to our mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicole Godschall, a medic with the 157th Medical Group. “We’re all looking forward to the potential this could bring.”

The exercise also provided the opportunity for organizers to vaccinate every element of the CERFP for smallpox and anthrax, a requirement for all unit members.

Additionally, the medical team conducted simulations training which leveraged the trauma experience of the providers and nurses employed by the medical element. This optimized the team’s time, filled critical training requirements and encouraged team building. These skills are important to future success in the face of an actual mass casualty event.

“There were a lot of great lessons learned from that,” said Maj. said Maj. Lyndsey Fleming, medical plans and operations office for the New England CERFP medical element. “We had never really done that for the entire group.”

By the end of the five-day mission, confidence was high, skills were sharpened and the training was deemed a huge success.

“It’s incredible to see everyone come together and run these scenarios,” said Fleming. “It was hugely beneficial.”