Vigilant Guard 2016: Mass Casualty Evacuation Training
Search and extraction teams were called in to a chaotic scene following a devastating simulated earthquake which left several dozen casualties scattered across a hillside at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site during Vigilant Guard 2016 in Jericho, Vt. on July 31st. U.S. Soldiers and Airman with the Massachusetts National Guard evaluated the landscape and tasked out priority and life threatening injuries to be evacuated as part of a national level emergency response exercise.
The training was implemented to allow teams to react to a mass casualty scenario where the system of responders and equipment would be stressed due to the sheer number of victims and injuries from a natural disaster or attack. Medics are required to use their situational awareness to treat patients. There are not enough supplies to get to every casualty immediately. Medics must rely on their skills to categorize and treat injuries in a prioritized manner. There were also scenarios within the exercise that would make medics assess the situation, requiring additional manpower or equipment before the victim could be assisted. Responders had to breech a rooftop for a vertical evacuation, recover a buried victim and extract casualties from a submerged vehicle.
The task forces included medics from the 102nd Intelligence Wing, 101st and 181st Engineers Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard. All Soldiers and Airmen worked side-by-side to locate and assess casualties.
“This was kind of eye opening for me in terms of how many moving parts there and how much you need to rely on different parts of the force within our own task force and figuring out how to manage it effectively and just kinda keep moving to get as many people as quick as possible,” said Senior Airman Aaron Stande, a search and extraction medic with the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Massachusetts National Guard.
As his first extensive scale exercise, Stande reflects on his experience with joint training.
"It’s not just the Air Force out here, it’s not just the Army out here, we have to learn to work with those other agencies, so its a matter of making sure we have standardization and we are sticking appropriately to the incident command structure,” explained Stande on all of the organizations involved in the training.
Some of the scenarios that were presented to the task force teams required extra sets of hands or significant set-up to provide a safe casualty extraction. Teams were supervised by site support staff and medics during the entire exercise for safety and proper guidance on dealing with specific events.
“It [training] makes individuals able to deal with certain situations no matter who they are with and work together as a team,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Mariah Jackson, medic with Charlie Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Vermont National Guard. "The goal is to continue training. Letting everyone have the opportunity, the hands on, and gain the knowledge of practice so in a real-world event we can take care of anything that needs to be taken care of."
“Even though its a training environment, there are still opportunities for real world injuries,” said Jackson about her role as a medic on scene. "I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen whether its a heat injury or physical. A lot of the things these guys [soldiers and airmen] are doing is dangerous and being safe is one of our priorities.”
Not only were teams able to assess the site, they processed the collection and treatment of casualties, and then evacuated priority patients by helicopter or vehicles to complete the mission.
“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of long, hard days but it’s work well worth putting in because you are getting that real-world training experience in case an incident were to ever happen,” said Stande. "This is how we will be responding. We are learning the ups and downs of how we are moving, definitely learning from mistakes that we’ve made in this exercise, learning how to correct that and move forward.”
The mass casualty training was one of the final exercises within Vigilant Guard 2016. National Guard units are given an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with federal, state and local agencies in preparation for emergency and catastrophic events.