Taking the show on the road

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott Thompson
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Rescuing 25 people after a factory is destroyed isn't easy. Doing it under the potential threat of hazardous chemicals takes that challenge to a whole new level. More than 50
members of the 182d AW took on that challenge Oct. 24- 26th.

A state Homeland Security training exercise was staged at an abandoned factory in Abingdon, Ill., involving 250 members of the Illinois National Guard and a number of personnel from various civilian E.M.S., fire, police and medical agencies. The objective was to test state and local responders' abilities to mitigate large-scale incidents.

The stage was set. A tornado had ripped through a large factory destroying parts of the building, trapping factory workers and potentially spreading hazardous chemicals throughout the structure.

In about four hours, teams systematically swept the massive building in full chemical response gear assessing damage, locating and rescuing victims and mitigating the
risk of chemical exposure. Using a leap-frog method, initial response teams worked to clear one area of the building at a time. As each area was cleared, follow-on teams moved-in to evacuate, assess, decontaminate and provide medical treatment to the accident victims.

Participating from the 182nd AW, were members from the Services Flight, Medical Squadron, Transportation, 264th Combat Communications Squadron and unit firefighters. According to CMSgt. Pat Armstrong, the exercise was a unique opportunity to get this many different disciplines together in one coordinated effort - Search & Extraction, DECON, Medical Triage and Fatality, Search and Recovery.

And getting this many agencies together allowed some unit members to get experience they wouldn't normally. "A new opportunity presented to a few of the medics the ability to go with the search and rescue teams and triage the victims as they were being found," says MSgt. Tim Swearingen of the 182d Medical Squadron.

Strengthening our ability to serve and protect in the wake of a disaster was the goal of this exercise, and it was achieved. "We walked away with some real insight about preparing our members to deploy on this type of mission," says Lt. Col. Jon Sisson of the 182d Medical Squadron. "The more loose ends we identify and tie up during exercises, the less we have to do during the real thing."