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Airmen test medical decontamination shelter

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- Airman 1st Class Steven Randolph (left) and Senior Airman Roger Richards decontaminate a patient processing through the small shelter patient decontamination system. Both airmen are assigned to the 51st Medical Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Toni Tones)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- Airman 1st Class Steven Randolph (left) and Senior Airman Roger Richards decontaminate a patient processing through the small shelter patient decontamination system. Both airmen are assigned to the 51st Medical Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Toni Tones)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFPN) -- A 19-person team comprised of several Air Force specialties from the 51st Medical Group here are doing their part to improve chemical and biological defense capability within the Air Force and Department of Defense.

The team operated a small shelter patient decontamination system, also known as a medical decontamination shelter, as part of the final restoration of operations Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration during the combat employment readiness exercise Feb. 2.

The 52-by-20 canvas facility, manufactured by Alaska Industry, is set up for ambulatory and nonambulatory patients contaminated with biological or chemical agents. It is located approximately 250 feet away from a medical treatment facility.

"The set up is similar to our internal process (in the hospital)," said Col. Frederick Schaeffer, 51st Medical Operations Squadron deputy commander. "The objective here is to decontaminate the patients prior to admitting them into a permanent facility."

The team composition is also important, added Schaeffer. "We want to make sure we have the right Air Force specialties on the line to monitor the patients' status as they process," he said.

The team worked Feb. 1 to prepare for the Feb. 2 demonstration, walking through the process with members of the ACTD training team.

"We walked them through with several patients (Feb. 1), and they were a little slow processing them," said Jerry Sue Thompson, RestOps medical decontamination shelter assessment lead. "However, they were very quick (Feb. 2); it took them little to no time to process the 13 mock patients."

The first patient processed Feb. 2 was a 180-pound mannequin. "We wanted to give them a contrast to working with real people who cooperate with them," said Thompson. "When most nonambulatory patients come in, they will be in a state similar to the mannequin, unable to respond to what is requested of them."

The first and most important step of the process is disrobing the patient, said Thompson. "It's important to get the member out of the contaminated clothing without getting any agents on the person. Therefore it's vital to remove the clothes in a certain order."

After disrobing, the patient is washed down at different locations. Once through the line, a monitor checks the patient for any additional contamination. If no agents are detected, the patient proceeds to the medical facility for treatment.

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