ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Robins Air Force Base and local emergency services personnel participated in a Mass Accident Response Exercise Dec. 4-7, 2018, at the Guardian Centers complex in Middle Georgia.
The goal of the exercise was to test the responses of Team Robins, Houston County Sheriff's Office, Perry Police Department, Houston County Ambulance Service, Perry Fire Department and Houston County Fire Department to a mock crash of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft.
“We want to make it as real as we can while minimizing artificiality and still maximizing our opportunity,” said Col. Katrina Stephens, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, Robins Air Force Base.
That thought was echoed by Col. Ato Crumbly, 116th Air Control Wing commander.
“Our goal for this training was to provide the most realistic training scenario possible for Team JSTARS, the 78th ABW and our off base civilian mission partners and first responders,” said Crumbly. “It is imperative that together we talk and work through possible events so we are best prepared to care for our military members, their families and local citizens.”
In order to make the scenario as realistic as possible, the participants partnered with the Guardian Centers, a disaster preparedness and tactical training center in Perry, Georgia.
“The exercise was a lot more realistic than we typically respond to for base exercises,” said Forest Johnson, Fire Emergency Services chief at Robins Air Force Base. “By being off the base, we worked through several of the follow-on functions for this exercise that we usually don't have the opportunity to do because of mission impact on the installation.”
Local first responders, who were integral to the exercise being a success, also received valuable training in addition to deepening relationships with other area emergency services personnel.
"We feel privileged to have been allowed to participate in the exercise,” said Lee Parker, Perry Fire Department fire chief. “It was very beneficial for us to test our response to such a challenging situation and to work with our fellow emergency responders from the base. We look forward to continuing our relationship in the future.”
Strengthening the bond among area first responders was also at the forefront for Robins’ fire chief.
“As the Incident Commander for this event, I really do appreciate all of the effort put in to making this exercise a challenge for all that responded. It is always a pleasure to practice with our mutual aid partners,” said Johnson.
And that practice is what the exercise was all about.
“The MARE gave us a crucial look into the strengths and weaknesses we have as a team and ways we can improve our processes to best handle potential catastrophic events,” said Col. Curtis Bass, 461st Air Control Wing commander. “Events like an aircraft mishap are never things we want to think about, but flying is inherently dangerous and this exercise was a critical step to prepare our base and our Middle Georgia partners should an event like this ever occur.”
Along with testing the skills participants already have, the MARE was a reminder to each member of Team Robins and local first responders that their abilities and relationships could be needed at any time. The Robins vice commander drove this point home.
“The job must be done and the mission needs to be accomplished, to the point that our response actions become muscle memory,” Stephens said.