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Monday, September 04, 2006

Anaconda Takes Action During String of Surprise Attacks

Written by Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 210th MPAD
Posted on 09.01.2006 at 11:53am


LSA ANACONDA, Iraq – The injured were scattered behind the building, each covered in blood. One woman, her broken arm extended in front of her, cried out for help as the Air Force firefighters arrived.

The firefighters, some with bags of medical equipment, began quickly checking each of the four people lying in the sand behind the West Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Center. Then they spotted a fifth victim sprawled against a nearby chainlink fence.
As the first responders dealt with the dead and wounded, a vehicle exploded at the North Entry Control Point, maiming and killing more people.

There was a small arms attack against one of the towers and Security Forces and other units began screening traffic throughout the base. It was a busy afternoon for leaders here Aug. 24, as the mass casualty exercise piled complications on top of calamity.

Capt. Yancy W. Caruthers, assistant medical plans officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Corps Support Command, oversaw the portion of the exercise at the West MWR. “This is as much for the leadership as the first responders, because the leaders need to know where the weaknesses are so they can fix them,” he said.

Caruthers, who is an emergency room nurse in his civilian job, spent more than two hours creating realistic-looking wounds – including burns and an amputation – for the “injured” personnel. He gave instructions on how to act and how medics should treat their injuries.

The idea was to give responders a feel for what it’s like to respond to a real emergency and get them to consider what they should do when the situation is as difficult as possible, he said. “I want to make them think under pressure,” Caruthers said. “You get chaos … It’s the medic’s job to manage that.”

Sgt 1st Class Don C. Hammons, acting first sergeant for 864th Adjutant General Company, has had previous experience being a casualty during one of these exercises. He said it helps everyone involved learn to deal with such situations.

“The Army’s mantra is train as you fight,” Hammons said. “So the more realistic we can make it, the more the Soldiers benefit. The more information they retain.”

Tech. Sgt. Chris D. Stafford, fire station captain, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, said afterwards that what he saw of the exercise was a success. “I thought the coordination between all the entities went really well,” he said, noting there were only a few minor communications difficulties. “This was a really good learning environment for all of us to come together.”

Sgt. Miguel A. Garibay, NCOIC at one of the traffic control points, said the exercise helps his unit, B Battery, 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, to be more flexible given different missions on short notice. “It gets us out of the norm,” he said.

Col. Martin J. Christensen, the 3rd COSCOM surgeon, said the exercise stresses the need for quick action by Combat Lifesaver-trained personnel and the medics. The medical facility at Logistical Support Area Anaconda is “one of the best hospitals in Iraq,” he said. “The bottom line is to save lives,” Christensen said.

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