116th Medical Group Perfect at Operation Sunrise Rescue

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roger Parsons
  • 116th Air Control Wing
The 116th Medical Group (MDG) earned a perfect score in its recent Homeland Response Force Exercise Evaluation, Operation Sunrise Rescue, at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla.

The joint force exercise involving the 116th MDG from Robins, the Savannah Air Guard 165th MDG and other Georgia Guard assets took place Nov. 14 through 18.

The purpose of the exercise was to test their readiness as a National Guard Joint Task Force 78th Homeland Response Force Command and Control element and the subordinate units which make up the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, (CBRNE) and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP).

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Homeland Security put measures in place to ensure robust support is available to respond to those types of incidents. The role of National Guard elements is to support the efforts of local and state first responders until the arrival of federal response during a disaster.

"It's great because the military works with local hospitals, firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses," said Maj. Patricia Hood, 116th MDG assistant chief nurse administrator. "During the incident, local resources can get overwhelmed, and we're there to fill the gap."

The Georgia Guard team received two perfect scores in previous evaluations leading up to Operation Sunrise Rescue. This exercise, graded by the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center, was the final step in receiving validation as an asset for the National Guard CBRNE enterprise.

"The Georgia Guard team is a standard for all the teams I've seen in the United States," said Capt. Billie Jo Hoffman, JITEC lead medical inspector. "We have what we call best-practices, and almost every avenue here for the medical section has a perfect best practice."

The week-long operation included a series of crawl and walk simulations leading to the final evaluation at full speed. Using local residents as simulated victims, complete with special effects makeup, the evaluation began during the early hours of Nov. 18 and ran for 36 hours non-stop.

After the simulated CBRNE disaster and the "medical time has started" call went out, the medical group had 90 minutes to get in place, unload equipment, set up tents and be operational.

"To be operational means that we have oxygen set up, electricity in the tent and the capability of treating one patient," explained Lt. Col. Julie Churchman, 116th MDG chief nurse administrator.
During the scored evaluation, the minimum standard was far surpassed."

"That doesn't happen by accident, it's one of the things we practice," added Col. Louis Perino, 116th chief of aerospace medicine. "It looks like a lot of running around, but it's a very well-orchestrated dance that's happening as we back those trailers up, drop the doors and set up the site."

Throughout the evaluation, patients were continuously triaged through decontamination tents, assessed for medical urgency and transported to the appropriate tent for medical attention. The CERFP teams worked as one seamless unit supported by the HRF Operations Center.

"It's an amazing team, even though they are different units they have integrated really well. Everybody has a set place to be, a set thing to do and it works," said Hoffman.

In a real world situation, the HRF Operations Center is designed to monitor multiple CERFPs in various locations, ensuring they have the personnel and supplies to provide sustained care during a crisis.

When a valid request for support is received, they are ready to deploy within hours of notification.