GULFPORT, Miss.– Airmen assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing participated in PATRIOT South 2018, based out of the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Mississippi, from Feb. 12 to 15.
The PATRIOT South 2018 was an exercise that tested the ability of local, state and federal organizations to communicate and coordinate in response to a variety of federal emergencies.
Established in 2009, the PATRIOT exercises simulate disaster scenarios employing search, rescue, evacuation and medical treatment of victims.
This year's focus was of a mock earthquake due to Mississippi's location near the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
Capt. Robert McDonald, executive officer with the 105th Operations Group, served with the joint staff operations of PATRIOT South 2018.
"Planning for PATRIOT begins a year prior to the start of the exercise," McDonald said."There were approximately 900 civilian and military personnel involved in this year's exercise."
The exercise occurs every year to prepare multiple areas across the United States for disaster relief response and validates the training for Federal Coordinating Centers, which are activated to organize mass evacuations from disaster locations to safety, McDonald said.
FCCs are divided into regions composed of multiple states. The centers have Patient Reception Areas staffed with nurses, doctors, litter bearers, transportation teams, joint patient tracking teams and additional medical team members for oversight.
Victims are triaged and sent to hospitals for more comprehensive care.
Sonja L. Stokes-Sumrall, the Area Emergency Manager for the Veteran Health Administration's Office of Emergency Management liaison, said the exercise is crucial to preparing for the hurricane season in Jackson, Mississippi.
"This particular exercise was set up to identify any short falls or deficiencies prior to the upcoming hurricane season on June 1," Stokes-Sumrall said.
A C-17 Globemaster III crew from the 105th Airlift Wing flew to Gulfport, Mississippi, which became a temporary base of operations during the exercise.
The crew flew missions to Nashville, Tennessee, Tampa, Florida and Jackson, Mississippi, working alongside aeromedical evacuation squadron members
Staff Sgt. Jaron Brown, a loadmaster with the 137th Airlift Squadron, 105th Airlift Wing, was among the crew. .
"You learn that everyone is willing to put in the effort to make sure they‘re ready for the next natural disaster, because Mother Nature waits for no one," Brown said.
As the C-17 landed, the aeromedical evacuation squadron members on board would work with the civilians at the FCCs to move the victims into the reception areas, evacuating the most critical victims first.
Airman 1st Class Codi Norman, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, was happy to participate in the exercise.
"I became a paramedic to save lives and I joined the military for the same reason," Norman said."There is no greater thing that we can do than to serve mankind."
While at the FCCs, the aeromedical evacuation squadron members would talk with the civilian staff showing them proper procedures to get the patients off the jet safely.
"We've already seen [domestic operations] in action with Hurricane Katrina, Harvey and Maria," Norman said."This is us perfecting the process, so that each subsequent operation runs even smoother than the last and we can move the most people in the safest and most efficient way possible."