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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2012

Alabama Army National Guard medics' evacuation skills honed during Vibrant Response 13

By Army Sgt. Candice Harrison 24th Press Camp Headquarters

MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING COMPLEX, Ind. - Soldiers with the Alabama Army National Guard's129th Area Support Medical Company recently conducted evacuation and ambulance training here as part of Vibrant Response 13, a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North.

The unit is part of the Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Element that conducts operations after a domestic CBRN incident and the training focused on their role in such a situation.

"We were practicing a scenario where we would evacuate a facility that was being used as a shelter after some type of an incident that would cause mass civilian displacement," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Pike, a platoon sergeant with the 129th ASMC. "Our job was to go in and evaluate the sick and injured and evacuate them out to receive a higher level of medical care."

Keeping the training realistic was one of the key tasks of the exercise planners.

"Everything changes (from minute to minute) in a real-world scenario. Anything can happen at any time, so we really need to be ready for everything," said Army Sgt. Joshua Heard, a medic with the 129th ASMC. "We may have to search and rescue one day and evacuate the next, you never know what will happen so you have to be ready for everything."

Training helps medics keep their composure while responding to an incident and able to maintain their bearing to help the sick and injured.

"It's always important for medics to practice mass causality incidents because those are usually the most stressful and resource intensive," said Pike.

While training helps the medics keep their skills sharp, it also helps them switch their mindsets from combat operations back to providing lifesaving and life-sustaining support to the American public in a time of need.

"In combat operations you are preparing yourself to be shot at, you're preparing to engage something," said Heard. "This training is more about handling the public because they could be your family, they could be your friends."

Techniques may differ between combat and homeland operations, but the fundamentals remain the same for the medics.

"You still have a mission that you have to accomplish. You have a commander's intent, which steers you in the direction that he wants you to go. The main difference is there is not a significant threat of bullets coming your way," said Pike. "The medical treatment and the evacuation we do are very similar whether it is for combat or for civilians."