Air National Guard medical team sets bar during disaster response test

It took only 36 minutes for the 139th Airlift Wing’s medics stationed in St. Joseph, Mo., to make their presence known as medical performers during a recent homeland response evaluation.

Fifty Air Force doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and support staff began their test in haste, pulling equipment from their six truck/trailer convoy.

In what seemed an instant, they fashioned a working, mass casualty triage center with record speed, officials told them.

“It was pretty seamless,” said Air Force Maj. Kim Smith, medical element leader, Homeland Response Force, FEMA Region 7.

The recent evaluation at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Ind., validated the force’s readiness and training.

The Missouri Air National Guard medical team makes up about 10 percent of this otherwise Army National Guard force, which rolls out for super-size disasters; those with thousands of potential causalities, in areas with massive infrastructure damage. Hurricane Katrina is the general example.

Most of the medical Airmen are traditional Guard members based at Rosecrans Air Guard Base. Their disaster mission provides direct support to civilian authorities through triage.

Smith said that means Citizen-Airmen are at hand, supporting emergency responders at disaster sites during the real-deal when overwhelming numbers of people need aid.

For example, their medics are trained in search and extraction so they can facilitate on-the-spot life-saving care. They can monitor the sick and injured during any chemical, biological or radiological decontamination. They can also manage massive numbers of patients between ambulatory and non-ambulatory care to move them on.

This process could be repeated uncountable times during a large-scale event.

Smith said each FEMA region has a HRF coming online. Their recent validations ensure combined interests that these joint National Guard forces are prepared.

Five-hundred Missouri Guard members exercised the joint force for several days, under long hours and often soaked in the rain.

Smith said they took note of the multitude of interests involved in disaster operations as well as gained confidence in their training.

“Coordination is one of the greater challenges during an event,” said Smith. “We did excellent.”

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