African Lion 2011 Mass Casualty Decontamination Exercise a Success
By Sgt. 1st Class Nichole Bonham, 128th MPAD
/ Published June 11, 2011
AGADIR, Morocco -- Members of the 151st Medical Group, Utah Air National Guard, joined a team of Royal Moroccan Armed Forces medical professionals here in a mass casualty chemical decontamination exercise May 20 as part of African Lion 2011.
The decontamination training simulated conditions and injuries likely in an industrial incident involving an explosive chemical hazard. Participants used four tents and a set up that included supplies and equipment from both the U.S. and Morocco to move service members through a decontamination line.
Major Micah Smith from Pleasant Grove, Utah, an emergency medicine specialist with the 151st Medical Group, described how the tents were used as stations to disrobe contaminated casualties, bathe them in a decon shower, and then dry and re-clothe them before doctors in the treatment tent could provide a more thorough assessment of injuries.
In an attempt to make the training as realistic as possible, some participants dressed up with injuries created from latex and paint to play the part of contaminated casualties. Other participants donned Level C protection suits, designed to guard against liquid contaminants, and provided initial triage as they guided or carried patients to the decon site.
One of the litter carriers, Senior Airman Jon Huff from Layton, Utah, approved of the hands on training with the equipment saying, "I'm a learn by doing kind of guy, so this benefits me by being in the suit and touching the litters."
Lieutenant Cmdr. Brett English, a Navy Reserve officer from Nashville, Tenn. and a member of the training assessment team, watched as the airmen in their bright green Level C suits performed initial triage. "Realistically," he said, "responders at the initial site would be in self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)," but he explained that the point of this day's training was the decon site and said by the time casualties were brought to a similar site in a real-world environment the decon team would be in the Level C suits modified with filters specific to the type of contaminant they were facing.
Technical Sgt. Scott Peltier from Salt Lake City, the acting first sergeant for the 151st Medical Group, said some of the factors involved in determining a real-world site for a decon mission included the location of the initial incident, local water supply, gradient of the terrain for runoff, wind direction and changes in weather.
"Once you've determined the hot zone, anyone in it is considered contaminated," explained Peltier. "That's why determining and securing the hot zone is so important - to avoid further casualties."
At the end of the day many complimentary remarks were passed between the members of the 151st Medical Group and their Moroccan counterparts. "It's very clear the Moroccans have an outstanding medical team," Smith concluded. "Every time I work with them I've been very impressed with their capabilities."
Exercise African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral U.S.-Moroccan exercise. This year's exercise, the 8th annual iteration, brings together nearly 2,000 U.S. service members from multiple locations throughout Europe and North America with more than 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. It is the largest exercise within the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, and is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. All U.S. forces will return to their home bases in the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise.