JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron trained on responding to a chemical agent exposure situation with unregulated patient movement and familiarization with decontamination procedures at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland April 8.
The 433rd AES collaborated with the 433rd Civil Engineer Squadron, JBSA Fire Department and the 911th AES, Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, to accomplish the training.
The exercise began when the aeromedical evacuation operations team received a simulated chemical agent alert from Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas, in need of medical assistance from the 433rd AES. The team, comprised of administration, communications and logistics within the 433rd AES, provides coordination and ground support for aeromedical evacuation teams.
According to Maj. Eddie O’Connell, 433rd AES director of operations, a C-130J Hercules aircraft assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, flew into JBSA-Lackland. He said the flight medical crew was scheduled to fly to Biggs Army Airfield and bring back an unknown amount of contaminated patients while providing in-flight medical care in mission-oriented protective posture gear.
Among the flight crew was Capt. Damian Gonzalez, 911th AES flight nurse.
“The reason the 911th participated with the 433rd was to integrate different crews, learn from each other and also bring that experience back to Pittsburgh,” Gonzalez said.
Due to the presence of birds on the runway, the JBSA bird/wildlife aircraft strike hazard team’s management protocols grounded aircraft to maintain the overall safety of the personnel.
Despite the setback, the JBSA Fire Department and 433rd CES continued training and assembled a decontamination line and simulated the protocols for offloading patients and the flight crew.
The decontamination line included the simulated chemical agent-exposed crew and patients moving through multiple cleaning stations where firefighters in hazardous material suits brushed contaminate away. In the last station, the firefighter would medically evaluate the patient then provide direction. Senior Airman Scott Moran, 433rd CES firefighter, was one of the members in the HAZMAT suits.
“The highlight of the exercise was just to get in the HAZMAT suits,” Moran said. “We don’t really do it that often, to get in there, test it out and remember what it feels like. We had such a nice day to do it. It was really good.”
O’Connell said that despite the obstacles, the training accomplished decontamination procedures and would rate the exercise an eight out of ten. He said the 433rd AES, the 433rd CES and the JBSA Fire Department are continuing their relationship with planning future training dates on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense scenarios.
“All in all, I think we learned a lot,” O’Connell said. “One of the big positives out of this is that we built a really strong relationship, I hope, with the JBSA Fire Department, reserve fire department and our emergency management folks at the wing.”