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Air Force, Army, Navy demonstrate patient care know-how in exercise

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- A year of planning culminated in the orchestration of more than five aircraft, 13 organizations and numerous flight surgeons, nurses, technicians, administrators and air and ground crew who conducted collaborative patient care and transport during Exercise Capital Shield here Dec. 4-7.

Under direction of the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region in Fort McNair, Va., and Air Force District of Washington surgeon general at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., AFDW units, the Guard and Air Force Reserves, Army and Navy fused resources in several states to demonstrate mass casualty response following a state-of-emergency declaration.

"We threw every kind of event at the exercise participants at a very accelerated pace," said Lt. Col. Christopher Morgan, AFDW medical operations and plans chief. "There was a simulated fire at an apartment complex, and we layered additional injects such as an interstate fuel truck explosion and a media helicopter crash to create hundreds of simulated on-scene casualties."

As the disasters intensified and surrounding medical facilities reported saturation, professionals here met the challenge of caring for patient overflow here as well as patient transport to North Carolina for further care, said Lt. Col. Jimmie Drummond, 459th Aeromedical Staging Squadron flight surgeon and exercise Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility commander.

The task of receiving, treating and sending patients within a matter of hours is a complex task that calls for meticulous coordination, the colonel said.

"Continuity and fluid patient hand-off is key to a successful mission and I think the people here pulled it off seamlessly," Colonel Drummond said. "We had patients arrive from Bethesda Hospital, Md., and ensured their suitability to face potential flight stressors like turbulence and cabin pressure as they fly to their next destination."

West Virginia Army National Guard Blackhawks followed by 121st Aviation Battalion and 1st Helicopter Squadron UH-1N Huey arrived here to deliver eight critically burned patients to the CASF, a medical care area complete with a power generator and communication capability, created through the efforts of 459 ASTS, the AFDW 79th Medical Wing and the 459th Maintenance Group.

In the CASF, flight nurses, medical technicians and a District of Columbia Air National Guard 113th Wing chaplain, 1st Lt. Tiji Murphy, comforted patients as they waited to board an Air National Guard C-130 from New Castle, Del.

Once on the flight line, members of the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron joined the Delaware Air National Guard's 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 166th Airlift Wing to prepare the C-130's ramp and cabin for patients.

Within minutes, exercise participants loaded all eight stretchers onto the aircraft, bound for North Carolina.

"I personally didn't feel like I was 'working with other branches or agencies,' because we [were] one," said Master Sgt. Mike Pierson, a Delaware National Guard medical technician. "Everyone was on the same page from the beginning."

Colonel Morgan said the planning and effort goes a long way beyond the exercise.
"We try to make these exercises as realistic as possible to benefit not only the medical care providers, but their patients too," said Colonel Morgan. "This seamless transition in patient care is so important because it could very well be my family or your family on that plane."
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