Sgt. 1st Class Michael Eller
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In all of the situations that might happen on a forward operating base, having a mass casualty scenario may rank among the worst. Preparation and rehearsals are the best way to keep Soldiers and civilians properly informed on what to do in the unlikely event of a catastrophic attack that spirals into a MASCAL event.
The FOB Sharana mayor cell and base defense operations center led the FOB through two mass casualty drills, one in March and one in April. The first rehearsal occurred with ample warning in the middle of the day; the second without warning and during dinner hours when many Soldiers were out.
“Mass casualty drills are important and will save lives if properly rehearsed and executed,” said 1st Sgt. Travis Fisher of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment. “It needs to be as realistic as possible to provide the Soldiers with conditions that will have them prepared for a real event.”
Artillery simulators were used to replicate indirect fire impacts and added a realistic component to the drills. The base defense operations center assigned different Soldiers, International Security Assistance Force partners and civilians to act as casualties and placed them in locations where passersby were sure to notice them. This assessed how quickly designated FOB personnel could react to different scenarios.
“Serving as a ‘combat cameraman’ during the second exercise, I was able to watch how the FOB reacted to the explosions,” said 1st Lt. Justin Brooks. “It surprised me how quickly Soldiers seemingly came out of nowhere and began to provide aid to the simulated casualties to the best of their ability.”
Along with human casualties, the base defense operations center arranged for a military working dog and handler to take part in the exercise. The working dog carried with him a tag indicating his injuries, and first responders treated him in the same way they would any other casualty.
“I don’t think Thor (military working dog) minded the attention. He’s somewhat of an attention hound anyway,” said handler Spc. Logan Ellard of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Simulated casualties went through the “whole nine yards,” short of being evacuated to a higher level of care. Once medical treatment teams arrived at each of the casualty collection points, they loaded casualties in whatever vehicles were available and transported them to the medical treatment facility.
Once there, they underwent triage, a process where medically trained personnel sort the casualties by severity. Medical personnel then brought them into the operating room, where the field surgical team simulated surgery. Even the military working dog underwent the process.
“Having the opportunity to practice and rehearse a mass casualty event is something that gets lost in the sauce, because they (mass casualty events) do not happen often on large FOBs,” said Staff Sgt. Randall Fuller.
All participants in the event got something out of the rehearsal; the medical staff underwent triage training, the military police practiced setting up quick cordons, and the BDOC practiced gaining 100-percent accountability.
(Eller serves with 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment)