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NEWS | May 6, 2021

Behind the moulage

By Sgt. Anshu Pandeya 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The dog sits barking and growling trying to get someone's attention. At first glance Diesel, the dog, looks like he's been injured, but upon closer inspection one realizes this is no ordinary dog.

Diesel is a life-size medical trainer designed to look and feel like the real thing.

Soldiers participating in Exercise Guardian Response 21 will be interacting with state-of-the-art training tools like this one. Guardian Response is a multicomponent Homeland Emergency Response Exercise run by the Army Reserve's 78th Training Division.

“Our job as Effects and Enablers is to create the actual casualties,” says Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Sean Callaway, dayshift non commissioned officer in charge of the cell made up of Soldiers and Airmen.

The manikins they use for casualties are very realistic and are controlled by radio frequency using laptops.

Callaway, a Soldier from the First Medical Training Brigade out of Fort Gordon, Ga., says, “Their chests rise and fall as they breathe. You can only have one side of the chest fall to simulate crushed ribs or collapsed lung. You can feel pulses. You can get blood pressures. Their tongues swell up to create airway blockages.”

Callaway explains some of the procedures Soldiers can do on the manikins. He adds, “You can also do more high-speed procedures on them like stick an actual chest tube in the side of their chest wall to drain air fluid. You can do needle, chest decompressions on them, start IVs, and place tourniquets. The manikins are set to realize if they put a tourniquet on a leg, it actually stops the bleeding because they do bleed as well.”

Diesel and Hero, another canine medical trainer, are also very realistic. In fact, some of the people behind the dogs are from Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company behind Star Wars, including those behind Chewbacca's fur in the new movies.

The Effects and Enablers team also dresses up the manikins, Callaway says. They don’t just dress them up in clothes but also apply makeup, or moulage, to simulate wounds.

Still the manikins aren’t the only casualties that participate in the exercise.

“Last night we had a guy who had seen a lot of traumas, a lot of people dying in the aftermath of the nuclear explosion and he just started yelling, talking about it,” says Army Reserve Capt. Anna Watson describing a notional nuclear event as part of the exercise. The Camp Atterbury Effect and Enablers Cell officer in charge continues, “He's lost his friends in Afghanistan and he felt like he was back in Kandahar and apparently one of the Soldiers just looks to somebody and goes, ‘Is this real? Or is this make-believe,’ because he was selling it so well.”

Whether Soldiers encounter live role players or manikins, Soldiers should be encouraged to know the team behind those casualties is excited to be there to provide Soldiers with good training.

“It's five days of hard work, you know, 12-hour shifts and whatnot, but you get to do something that you would never do anywhere else,” says Watson, a Soldier with Medical Readiness Training Command out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas. She explains,” Where else are you going to learn how to deal with Hollywood-level makeup on a manikin? You learn this kind of niche, cool different skill set just to help your brethren do training and do more realistic training. You make it seem more accurate and more believable.”