AL ASAD, Iraq -- The first combined-service mass casualty drill was conducted here Oct. 5 and was hailed by 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing participants and medical planners as a tremendous success.
"The purpose of the drill was to test the response of various fire and medical units here and it was a tremendous success," said Cmdr. Tamar T. Accardo-Jones, medical planner, Marine Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd MAW. "It was also the first mass casualty drill that involved Army, Navy, Marine and civilian fire and medical personnel working in coordination with each other. That is pretty significant."
The drill tested all aspects of emergency response from communication to medical treatment of simulated casualties.
Simulating a traffic accident and a medical emergency with more than 26 casualties, including 10 requiring immediate care, the drill challenged triage personnel to accurately identify and separate the casualties by severity of injury.
"It is critically important for the on-site triage officer to determine who requires immediate care and who is either delayed, walking wounded or expectant," explained Accardo-Jones. "Immediate casualties are still savable but need serious medical attention right away.
"If the triage does not properly identify immediate and expectant casualties right away they may end up trying to save an expectant whose injuries are such that they are almost dead and thereby potentially lose a casualty whose condition requires immediate care," added the mother of two and native of Orange, Va.
Planning the drill and bringing the various medical units and personnel took approximately one month and was no easy task, said Accardo-Jones.
Drill assets included numerous units and medical personnel from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 3rd MAW, Combat Service Support Group 7, Regimental Combat Team 7, Alpha Surgical Company, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, civilian contractors and the Al Asad Mayor's Office.
"This was the first time I was involved in a drill in a combat zone and it was impressive to see the level of coordination," said HM1 Juan Rivera, corpsman and senior medical representative, MWHS-3, and a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who participated in the mass casualty drill "We learned that communication between the on-scene commander, base fire department and the tactical command center is very important."
With observers and evaluators on hand during the drill, the lessons learned will help plans for future drills and real emergencies.
"With any mass casualty drill, now is the time to make mistakes and to be confused because we can not afford them in a real situation, especially here in Iraq," said Lt. J.g. Johnfritz E. Antoine, environmental health officer, MWHS-3, who observed the drill from start to finish.
Accardo-Jones, an activated Naval reservist, said there are plans for additional drills in the near future to further test capabilities.