NDMS exercises military assistance to civilian authorities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marjorie A. Bowlden
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 911th Airlift Wing and multiple local organizations participated in a National Disaster Medical System exercise here, July 12, 2014.

The exercise, called Lycoming Reach, included participation from the Navy Operations Support Center - Pittsburgh, nine local Civil Air Patrol squadrons, the Salvation Army, Disaster Medical Assistance Team PA-1, 32 ambulance companies and numerous other organizations. It brought together approximately 1,000 members of military and civilian organizations, creating a joint environment to provide coordinated efforts in response to a national disaster event.

The NDMS is a federal initiative intended to provide a nationwide, coordinated response of emergency medical services in the event of a disaster of great magnitude. The system is a cooperative effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local governments, and the private sector.

Pittsburgh IAP ARS is the reception site for the NDMS in this area.
The 911th AW is required to conduct a major accident response exercise once a year and the Veterans Affairs NDMS has to conduct an exercise every three. In years when the two coincide, personnel from both organizations work together for joint training.

"It's a lot of work to do these exercises," said David R. Rossi, the NDMS area manager. "But when you see it all come together, and see everyone working together, it shows good relationships and camaraderie. We're all a part of the same local community working together to serve that community."

The scenario of the exercise was a simulated terrorist attack at a large-scale sporting event. Six sorties were flown using four C-130 Hercules aircraft with approximately 150 total CAP cadets, Development and Training Flight trainees, and DOD personnel acting as simulated victims from the attack.

"This is a great experience for the trainees," said Master Sgt. Christopher Johnson, NCO in charge of the DTF. "It gives them an idea how mobility works, as far as processing. It also gives them an idea if they were involved in an injury or incident; this is how it would work and how things would operate."

Preparation for the exercise started at 6 a.m., starting with the processing of the simulated victims. CAP cadets and DOD personnel assembled for sign-in and began the process of being made to look like actual victims of an attack. Volunteers used fake blood, putty, paint and bandages to make injuries look more realistic.

"We try to make this exercise as realistic as possible. When you make fake wounds like this, it makes it more realistic for everyone participating," said Rossi.

The first flight took off at 8 a.m., carrying simulated victims to Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. The third flight travelled to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, New York. All others flew between Williamsport, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh IAP ARS. Each of the flights provided joint training with the response systems in those areas.

Upon landing at Pittsburgh IAP ARS, simulated victims were offloaded from the aircraft, triaged and simulated transport to NDMS medical facilities in the area. Approximately a dozen CAP cadets were transported to the Oakland VA hospital to exercise the capability of its staff, while the rest of the patients remained on station.

"The kids took their roles very seriously," said Lt. Col. Bryan Branby, chief of plans, readiness and exercises with the 911th AW Inspector General's office. "If they were told they had to twitch and moan and groan, then that's exactly what they did. Then they'd take off the makeup and have a big grin on their face."

The last flight from Williamsport landed at 3 p.m., and once offloading and triage were complete, the exercise came to a close.

"It was a very smooth operation," said Branby. "Everyone was safe in their operations, the planes took off on time, and everything went like clockwork. The preparation really paid off. I'm glad we have this opportunity to work with our local agencies."