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NEWS | July 8, 2024

Hawaii Air Guard Trains on Urban Search and Rescue

By Tech. Sgt. John Linzmeier, 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard

LIVERMORE, Calif. - Members of the 154th Medical Group Detachment 1 participated in the 2024 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Medical Specialist Course at the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Training Center June 1-7.

The annual course is hosted by California Task Force 4 in the East Bay area of Northern California. It brings together some of the most experienced USAR professionals to hold lectures and train in a realistic field environment.

Lt. Col. Hiura, 154th Medical Group Detachment 1 mission commander, said the course enables participants to train alongside USAR Task Forces from all over the nation. The 24 Hawaii ANG members were the only military participants.

Class instructors included physicians, rescue firefighters, paramedics and veterinarians who have deployed in response to the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, tsunamis in Sri Lanka and Japan, the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the 2022 Surfside apartment collapse in Florida and other disasters.

Students became proficient with patient packaging and extrication in confined spaces, ingress and egress of collapsed structures and medical management of crush injury. They also practiced emergency surgical airways, intubations, ventilator management and field amputations on real tissue samples.

This marked the third consecutive year that DET1 members attended as students, with three enrolled, and the second year that DET1 members participated as instructors. Maj. Jason Habu, 154th MDG DET1 Search and Extractions Rescue Operations officer-in-charge and one of the two instructors from DET 1, emphasized how the course mirrored real disaster scenarios.

“The class was a physically intense experience where you’re crawling around in a live rubble pile extricating live patients,” said Habu. “Imagine exerting yourself trying to reach a patient, then having to treat and extricate them while being drilled by an MD on how and why you are providing certain medical treatments.”

Another 19 DET1 members attended to fulfill the needs of an on-scene disaster medical assistance team. This mobilized unit provides prehospital treatment and rapid-response medical care during public health and medical emergencies.

Master Sgt. Kyra Santos, a 154th MDG DET1 aerospace medical technician and DMAT participant, said the men and women of DET1 brought medical and emergency response backgrounds from their civilian and military roles, ranging from administrative support and medics to nurses and physicians.

The course included a simulated mass casualty requiring attendees to extricate and treat simulated patients. Patients were then transported to the DET1 treatment team for triage, treatment and stabilization.

The training was designed to match the intensity of an actual incident, with students and instructors working for 12 to 16 hours a day.

This grueling schedule culminated with an 18-hour exercise involving a simulated 8.4 earthquake that resulted in structure collapse with multiple casualties and survivors requiring extrication, medical management and transport.

“This course was challenging to our HIANG members because, out of a class of 36, our three were the only military members,” said Habu. “The class is usually only open to USAR Task Force Team Members, which typically include firefighters and physicians. Our members stick out like sore thumbs, but their great attitudes and hard work made them successful. Because of these attributes, we have been invited back to participate in this training as students and adjunct instructors, which is an honor for us.”

The state of Hawaii does not have an assigned FEMA USAR Task Force, and DET 1 is helping to fill this void in the event of a disaster or catastrophic event involving search and rescue operations. 

DET1’s mission is to deliver scalable responses to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive and disaster medical emergencies worldwide. 

“Attending these specific courses allows our members to learn the latest lifesaving measures and guidelines from medical professionals who are the subject matter experts in this field,” said Hiura. “Many of these skills learned are perishable if not used or practiced. I believe our DET1 Airmen will be more prepared to make a difference in saving lives if Hawaii experiences a major disaster.”



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