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NEWS | May 12, 2017

Mortuary affairs unit augments training during Guardian Response 2017

By Spc. Christopher Hernandez 345th Public Affairs Detachment

In a brightly lit trailer here, a trained moulage practitioner uses ceramic molds to create a fake-head laceration on a civilian role player while another uses a cosmetic spray on his subject’s abdomen to replicate a burn wound. In perhaps the most gruesome display in the scene an individual creates a simulated severe head injury complete with protruding brain matter. These creators are not Hollywood artists, however; they are U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 266th Ordinance Company.

Approximately 40 266th OC Soldiers, based in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, arrived here in mid-April to provide training and support for Exercise Guardian Response. Although the 266th OC is comprised mainly of engineers and ordnance specialists, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers of the 311th Quartermaster Company-Mortuary Affairs, also of Aguadilla, drew on their specific knowledge to train and supervise the 266th in preparation for their mission as moulage support for the exercise.

“As a mortuary affairs unit, we have the knowledge to (create) different wounds through all of the anatomical parts of the human body,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Rosario, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 311th QC-MA.

The extensive training in moulage, a relatively scarce field within the U.S. military, provided realism to the training scenario.

“The moulage team is the team that makes the fictitious wounds on live patients,” said 1st Lt. Giovanna Preston, a chemical officer from the 311th QC-MA and the officer-in-charge of the moulage team. “This is to recreate what would happen in case of a disaster scenario.”

As the officer-in-charge of the moulage team, Preston supervised the planning and execution of her unit’s assets and resources during the event.

“My expectation of the Soldiers is to make sure they put the right wounds on the mannequins and live patients to make it as realistic as possible, and that they get the most of their training,” Preston said.

Learning an entirely new skill set presented a challenge to the Soldiers of the 266th OC. According to Spc. William Guardiola, a horizontal construction engineer with the 266th OC, there was a period of adjustment and he had to step outside of his comfort zone.

“It was really weird at first, since I’m an engineer at an ammunition unit,” said Guardiola. “But when they told me that I had to do this, I had no complaints because my job helps other Soldiers get their medical training and learn how to respond to emergency situations.”

In addition to basic moulage and skin gel application, Soldiers of the 266th also learned how to recreate painstaking renditions of battlefield and disaster injuries.

“At first, they came to teach us how to do the abrasions and lacerations,” said Pvt. Elsamari Figueroa, an ammunition specialist with the 266th. “I also learned how to do some dog bites, put on skin flaps, and make wounds from impaled objects.”

Despite the difficulty in learning moulage techniques, Guardiola said that he and other Soldiers in the 266th OC appreciated the opportunity to train in the MUTC environment.

“As an Army Reserve unit, we have annual training only once a year, so we try to do the best that we can and get the fullest degree of training,” Guardiola said.

Training events such as Guardian Response 17 are designed to immerse units into an environment that closely replicates what they might experience in real-world scenarios. From the perspective of the OIC of the moulage team, their contribution to mission success is critical.

“They have a more integral role in [CS 2017] than people realize, and I’m very proud of my Soldiers,” Preston said.