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NEWS | May 16, 2016

The big picture: units combine, execute MASCAL exercise

By Sgt. Kimberly Browne 350th Public Affairs Detachment

“I think this is going to be good and exciting, I think it’s a good kickoff to our [Field Training Exercise],” said Maj. Peter Tonon, clinical operations officer for the 1st Medical Training Support Battalion. “I think it’s going to get everyone’s adrenaline started and it’s going to set the tone of how we move forward in the subsequent exercises and medical injects that we’re going to have for the next few days.”
A fuselage burst into flames and the sudden sound of a fire truck roared in the distance. Upon arrival, the fire fighters rushed from their vehicles and began preparations to extinguish the fire and control the chaos. Casualties from the crash were cast across the flight line screaming and calling for help. As some fire fighters attacked the fire, others triaged the casualties one by one until it was safe for medical personnel to step in.
“You’ll see some blood, some smoke, some ripped up uniforms; it will get as real as we can get it,” said Tonon. “This training is to give the fire fighters a chance to put out fires and have coordination with the ground ambulance, where [they] will do casualty assessments and evacuations. You’ll also see multiple units coordinating to do patient care and … getting them to higher levels of care.”
Subsequently, the ground ambulance teams arrived and sprinted to assist those in distress. The injured cried for help and clung to each other for comfort as they awaited their battlefield treatment. As fast as they could, the medics treated and determined the priority level of each victim, escorted or litter carried them to a safe area for loading into an ambulance and taken to a Combat Support Hospital.
“The casualties will be taken to one of three places of higher care; the 256th Combat Support Hospital, the 801st CSH or the 456th [Area Support Medical Company],” Tonon said.
Nevertheless, the fire fighters had an enduring task to conquer as well. They had to tend to the fire and the casualties.
“We train but we try to train our unit like it’s real, so in the case of a real emergency we have that skill, and kind of feel like we’ve been there before,” said Spc. Donavan Arndt, a fire fighter with the 614th Engineer Detachment and native of Seattle, Wash. “In the fire service we like to preach within our unit that the number one priority is life safety … so, we’re going to attack the fire and at the same time we’re going to try to get to the casualties. So for us it’s not necessarily one or the other.”
When it was all said and done and the casualties had been evacuated to their respective Combat Support Hospital from the flight line and those who remained had the opportunity to focus on what just happened.
“This training has been awesome for me,” Arndt said. “I feel like I have gained a lot of experience, especially with fire fighting, you can never learn enough.”
Nonetheless, the training scenario did not end there. The casualties transported to the Combat Support Hospital had to endure more comprehensive care from the emergency medical staff who unknowingly awaited their arrival.
“There was no warning of incoming patients,” said Spc. Justin Messer, a healthcare specialist with the 801st CSH and native of Greenfield, Ind. “Someone just walked in the door and tells us we have three ambulances full of casualties, so the hospital reacted.”
Successively, the hospital took it in stride and adapted to the mass casualty exercise, where they treated more than 15 patients in a “real as it can get” scenario and training.
“The training has helped me tremendously, especially understanding the roll of a CSH,” Messer said. “Being able to do this training as you would down range and not knowing what to expect, I’m all for it. I think the training overall is phenomenal.”
Ultimately, the exercise was executed as expected with all units involved participating and receiving a very realistic type of training. Arndt stated the importance this training has within each unit, “As a unit, every time we go out there it makes us strong and we gain more trust in each other.”

However, the crucial goal was to train to standard and have the Soldiers ready for anything was reinforced by the multi-unit mass casualty exercise and Fort Hunter Liggett’s 16th annual WAREX.