AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – Emergency personnel from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing executed a large, first responder exercise Sept. 24, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
A variety of agencies including medics, firefighters and security forces defenders participated in the exercise to test their readiness, knowledge of emergency procedures and interagency cooperation amongst the wing’s first responders.
“Today was all about ensuring our medics knew where they fit in with the larger response system,” said Col. James Chambers, 380th AEW Medical Group commander. “Our medics were literally working hand-in-hand with security forces and fire department EMTs to find and triage patients and litter carry them wherever needed.”
Additionally, the exercise helped foster partnership with the United Arab Emirates Joint Aviation Command to practice a medical evacuation scenario via helicopter. Working alongside the UAE JAC tested a critical relationship to ensure unified operations in a real-world scenario.
“Our teams demonstrated creativity and flexibility in meeting both scripted challenges as well as real-world ones,” said Chambers. “Exercising what’s being planned simultaneously builds confidence and exposes challenges – both are needed and both occurred today.”
Agencies were able to game plan response procedures, evaluate their effectiveness, overcome potential road blocks, and ultimately prepare for real-world scenarios to save lives. Teams of first responders were specifically able to simulate triage processes for moulage patients, on-scene medical care, as well as medical evacuation capabilities.
“The exercise let people know how to operate in a controlled chaos environment,” said Tech. Sgt. William Coyle, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter. “The goal is to control the chaos and move through it. You will always get the best results when you do that.”
As an Air Force Reservist, Coyle is also a firefighter in his civilian duties in the U.S., and said he was able to implement training from the outside into the exercise as well.
“Of course you never know what to expect in these sort of situations, and even if you did, there will inevitably be curve balls thrown your way,” said Coyle. “You can never be too prepared to respond in a severe incident.”
Working as a first responder, Coyle does not underestimate the impact his training and the execution of those skills can have in a real-world scenario.
“When you work as a first responder you don’t have the luxury of accepting mediocrity,” said Coyle. “You have to stay proficient on all your skillsets, because what we do has a direct impact on whether people will live or die.”
The focus of any exercise is to safely respond to the emergency and mitigate impact to the wing and personnel. While there will always be lessons learned along the way, “practice like you play” is even more relevant in exercise scenarios.
“Lessons learned from today’s exercise will inform medical training in future rotations as well as shape personnel and materiel requests from U.S. Central Command,” said Chambers. “Today’s exercise will also help us optimally partner with a future trauma center in the UAE to provide the Department of Defense not only improved medical care for ADAB, but potentially for the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility.”
The 380th AEW was able to holistically strengthen the base’s readiness capability and first responder interoperability with Host Nation partners.
“I’m grateful to our medics and our ADAB partners who invested so much into preparing and executing this today, and look forward to building upon this for future rotations,” said Chambers.