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Airmen, civil authorities train for natural disasters

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Natural disasters can and often strike with little notice, making a recent multi-state disaster response exercise involving military, civilian and interagency personnel especially valuable.

Eleven aircraft and more than 500 Airmen from nearly a dozen Air National Guard and active duty units participated in the U.S. Transportation Command response exercise, dubbed Turbo Challenge 2014, from March 27 through April 3.

The exercise was designed to prepare mobility forces to support relief operations within the U.S., was part of a series of linked exercises conducted alongside state and federal agencies simulating interagency response to a major earthquake in Alaska.

"TC 14 tested the capability of the Mobility Air Forces to airlift responders and supplies into a disaster zone and aeromedically evacuate the wounded," said Master Sgt. Matthew Wiese the Aeromedical Ground Training Operations manager. "Based on previous natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina, we know all too well the importance of being prepared."

Of the hundreds of mobility Airmen who participated in TC14, two dozen were involved in a related exercise called Ultimate Caduceus 2014, which focused on the processing and transfer of patients from the disaster site to medical care. UC14 participants included members of the 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Cheyenne Air National Guard Base, Wyo., the 375th AES, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the 43rd AES at Pope Army Airfield, N.C.

"This training is vital because there are not many military hospitals anymore," said Capt. Erwin SanPedro, a375th AES training instructor. "So if an incident on American soil were to occur, we [AE members] would have to work closely with civilian disaster relief on the ground."

For two days, two AE teams of 12 loaded C-130 Hercules aircraft with up to 35 simulated patient mannequins, for transfer to Denver, Colo.; Puget Sound, Wash.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Boise, Idaho; and Portland, Ore. Enroute, AE members simulated treatment for the patients.

Upon arrival at their destinations, AE crews oversaw the movement of mannequins to a care area where live patients took over and were treated.

"I liked the exercise because it gave me an opportunity to learn from others in our career field," said Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Shirley, from the 183rd AES. "While on the aircraft on the way to our destination, I was taught how to floor-load patients, identify and treat neurological trauma, and many other tasks."

The AE units also trained Army and civilian exercise partners during the exercise.

"We don't participate in exercises with Air (National) Guard AE units, let alone civilian authorities very often," said Capt. Melissa Stevens, a 183rd AES flight nurse. "This exercise gave us the opportunity to train each other and provide training to the people on the ground on how to provide the best patient care possible."

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