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Ready Eagle lands at Robins, medical team flies into action

people in medical exercise

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Staff Sgt. Tamika Bradley, 78th Occupational Medical Readiness Squadron technician, treats a simulated head wound during a mass casualty exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. The mass casualty exercise, Ready Eagle, enhanced the medical response capabilities of Airmen for events like natural disasters, and chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

people in medical exercise

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Ready Eagle facilitator, Denise Hargrove, right, reviews a mock patient medical assessment provided by Capt. Brittany Benefield, 78th Medical Group Troop Clinic registered nurse, left, and Capt. Kristopher Dolehanty, 78th Medical Group Troop Clinic flight commander, center. Airmen participated in week-long classroom sessions to prepare for the capstone event, a mock chemical attack resulting in simulated mass casualties, as a capstone of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

people in medical exercise

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Members of the 78th Medical Group perform a mock chemical decontamination during the Ready Eagle exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. The goal of the drill was to enhance the medical response capabilities of Airmen in the events of natural disasters, and biological, nuclear or radiological attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

The 78th Medical Group at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, held a mock emergency scenario May 17-21 to practice their skills in handling a mass casualty.

The scenario was based on a simulated chemical attack and required the medics to process patients through decontamination procedures and assess levels of injury while wearing chemical gear themselves.

people in medical exercise
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – A patient receives treatment following a mock chemical attack from members of the 78th Medical Group during the Ready Eagle exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. Airmen participated in week-long classroom sessions to prepare for mass casualty events and it culminated with a mock chemical attack. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
people in medical exercise
Ready Eagle lands at Robins, medical team flies into action
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – A patient receives treatment following a mock chemical attack from members of the 78th Medical Group during the Ready Eagle exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. Airmen participated in week-long classroom sessions to prepare for mass casualty events and it culminated with a mock chemical attack. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Photo By: KISHA JOHNSON MW167
VIRIN: 210521-F-MW167-1629
“We always say expect the unexpected,” said Matthew Schilling, Ready Eagle lead instructor. “Active shooters, natural disasters and things like COVID-19 outbreaks, we never know when these things are going to happen. So, maintaining medical readiness skills for any event can help save lives on or off the base. The entire medical group got this training.”

Ready Eagle was designed to test the readiness of medical professionals in a goal-oriented learning environment. The Air Force Medical Service preparedness and response oversight committee developed this as a way to reinvigorate installation medical response programs. 

Schilling said Airmen spent four days in classroom training prior to the hands-on drill. The medical team gained skills in patient triage and decontamination, as well as disease containment.

This large scale effort, which had the look and feel of a catastrophe, was made possible with the help of volunteers from various departments on base.

These actors embodied an array of simulated injuries: bloody bumps, bruises and lacerations, in addition to hobbling, screaming and moaning from those wounds.

Retired military nurse and facilitator, Denise Hargrove said having those loud sounds and jarring sights are important factors of this training.

“They did a lot better compared to most units we see,” said Hargrove. “People are not used to seeing gross wounds, and that includes some on the medical team here. My assessment is that some lingered too long on the wounds instead of quickly moving to an overall assessment of patients. Timing is everything, it can be the difference of whether someone lives or dies.”

Another aspect of the exercise is the emotional toll a traumatic event can have on a person.

Capt. Donelle Clark and his mental health team were given a situation to help a distraught mother, who was separated from her two young children.

people in medical exercise
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Medics with the 78th Medical Group push an injured patient to triage following a mock chemical attack during the Ready Eagle exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. The goal of the drill was to enhance the medical response capabilities of Airmen in the event of natural disasters, and biological, nuclear or radiological attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
people in medical exercise
Ready Eagle lands at Robins, medical team flies into action
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Medics with the 78th Medical Group push an injured patient to triage following a mock chemical attack during the Ready Eagle exercise at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, May 21, 2021. The goal of the drill was to enhance the medical response capabilities of Airmen in the event of natural disasters, and biological, nuclear or radiological attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kisha Foster Johnson)
Photo By: KISHA JOHNSON MW167
VIRIN: 210521-F-MW167-1598
“It is very important to address the mental state of people during an emergency incident,” said Clark, 78th MDG psychiatric nurse. “It is easy to see the physical wounds, but it’s often accompanied by invisible wounds that can take longer to heal than physical wounds and possibly impair a person’s life in various ways.”

This area of study is called Psychological First Aid.

Schilling added, “We are talking people with shell shock exposure to extreme trauma. It’s not depression; it’s that acute mental health reaction that occurs. Symptoms can range broadly, from what some call the ‘thousand yard stare,’ where they zone out and go into a state of being unresponsive, or breaking down crying completely overwhelmed. So it’s a broad range in how it can happen, from panic to potential being suicidal.”

In Clark’s scenario, the family was reunited.

“There was order to the chaos,” said Col. Eric Chumbley, 78th MDG deputy commander. “Though we have yearly mass causality training, this was our first Ready Eagle exercise. It was great training for our medics, and we thank our mission partners who came out and helped.”

For Schilling, Ready Eagle is another way to serve.

“We love conducting these trainings, because most of us (facilitators) are retired military and never had the opportunity for this type of training. I’m glad we can help them become more proficient,” said Schilling.