Team Whiteman first responders strengthen interoperability capabilities
By Senior Airman Missy Sterling, 442d Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 08, 2017
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Medical personnel assigned to the 509th and 131st Medical Groups and the 442d Medical Squadron rehearsed medical readiness contingency actions they would take in the event of a public health emergency; a chemical, biologic, nuclear, radiologic, and/or explosive emergency; and mass casualties during a total force integration exercise at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Dec. 2, 2017.
The initial simulated scenario was a declared public health emergency due to a pandemic flu. Twenty-one simulated patients with flu symptoms lined up at the point of dispensing (POD) for medication when one patient became a simulated active shooter, wounding several bystanders. He then distributed a chemical agent and injured several more bystanders. The simulated active shooter was successfully subdued by members of the 509th Security Forces Squadron.
Simulated injuries ranging from minor flu symptoms, to gunshot wounds and exposure to a chemical agent required coordinated efforts of 14 medical readiness contingency teams. Many teams mixed active-duty, Missouri Air National Guard and reserve personnel.
“We had many different objectives to meet during this exercise,” said Col. Chrystal Henderson, the 509th Medical Group commander. “Even though there were some hiccups here and there, people flexed and made the appropriate adjustments to ensure mission success. We were able to meet all objectives of three major scenarios today.”
Medical personnel practice taking the appropriate actions during an emergency to improve and automate their responses and expose any shortcomings that need to be corrected.
“Positive attitudes, embracing the chaos, and remaining open to learning from one another makes all the difference in improving our emergency response,” said Lt. Col. Patti Fries, the 131st Medical Group commander. “Managing an emergency response within a dual chain of command structure can be challenging – it involves more than simply adding bodies to existing teams.”
Volunteers gathered early on Saturday for moulage, which is makeup used to make realistic wounds and symptoms. The exercise began at the deployment center, where the POD was set up. After the active shooter portion commenced, security forces and ambulances were called in for support.
While the ambulances were in transit, medical personnel triaged the volunteer patients by separating them based on the severity of their condition. The patients ranged experiencing life threatening injuries requiring immediate intervention to those with less urgent symptoms/injuries. They also checked vitals and made sure the patients were stabilized.
Medics transported the patients to the decontamination area on the west side of the clinic where they were assessed and processed through a decontamination line prior to entering the clinic for further medical treatment.
This complex exercise provided an opportunity for the different components to work side-by-side. However, the goal is to provide more daily opportunities for the components to train together.
“We recognize that once a year is not enough,” Henderson said. “We will continue to work with the full-time Guard and Reserve and offer them the opportunity to come in on our training days and work side-by-side seamlessly like they did today.”
Chief Master Sgt. Jason Robbins, the 509th Medical Group superintendent, said that even though he has only been assigned to Whiteman for four months, the total force integration is apparent.
“There’s definitely cross-over between what the Guard, Reserve and Active Duty do,” Robbins said. “It only makes sense that our medical units with similar missions would work together as well.”
Although the total force mass casualty exercise happens once a year, Team Whiteman medical providers continue to sharpen their skills day-to-day so they can execute them at a moment’s notice.