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Lackland medical Airmen tackle response force training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing's Defense CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) Response Force trained July 21-23 to prepare for a national crisis.

Comprised of 153 Airmen, the wing's DCRF is tasked to provide medical care, and work with military and civilian emergency response teams nationwide in the event of a natural disaster or major attack within the U.S.

For two days of the three-day exercise, 35 DCRF Airmen reported to a training site at nearby Port San Antonio to assemble a mobile field hospital, similar to what they would use in a real-world scenario.

On the final day of the exercise, all 153 DCRF members gathered and then broke off into their respective teams to get to know each other and to discuss mission capabilities and expectations.

"If there's some type of natural disaster or attack, we can be called," said Col. Markus Gmehlin, Defense CBRN Response Force commander and 59th Medical Support Group commander. "That's when we start moving. It's our job, at that point, to get to the location, get our equipment set up and start treating patients."

Upon activation, DCRF personnel and equipment have just hours to be en route to a location. Within 15 minutes of arrival, the DCRF is expected to be able to treat patients. Within four hours, medical facilities, including an operating room, emergency room and intensive care unit must be up and fully functioning.

According to 59th Medical Wing Readiness Chief Ron Little, the 59th MDW is just one piece of the (U.S. Northern Command) Defense CBRN Response Force. There are 71 units from 34 installations that comprise the team.

The 59th MDW's DCRF is responsible to tend to those service members and other support personnel.

"Upon arrival, our job is to be ready to treat military members and support personnel who have been called to assist," said Chief Master Sgt. Laura Callaway, Defense CBRN Response Force superintendent and 559th Medical Group superintendent.

"The general population, for the most part, will be cared for by the local authorities out in the affected area and sent to hospitals for treatment," said Callaway. "The military members, fire fighters and security personnel who get injured in the line-of-duty come to us. And they are counting on us to get them back to work."

To provide adequate medical support, the DCRF is broken up in to 18 teams. Each team is purposely built to include Airmen of all different ranks and medical specialties critical to providing a full-range of services.

"Each team has a different mission," said Staff Sgt. Audrey Rapoza, 59th MDW Unit type code and readiness skills verifications program manager. "We have teams that provide surgical support, and others that provide blood support or medical ancillary.

"In order for those teams to accomplish their specific mission, we need to make sure we have the right people, with the right skill-sets working together," said Rapoza.

Although teams and missions are clearly outlined, the importance of teamwork was high on the training objective list.

"When we're taking care of patients, we're all medics," said Gmehlin. "Functional AFSCs [Air Force Specialty Codes] don't matter. We're one team, we all work together."