AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --
As a part of the 31st Aerospace Medicine Squadron (AMDS), the Bioenvironmental Engineering (BE) section provides care and protective measures for Airmen and their families. Usually, this includes heat stress warnings, testing air and water quality for the base, and conducting gas mask fit tests to keep Wyverns prepared for anything. However, they also perform another critical mission role: hazard identification and containment.
On Aug. 9, BE participated in exercise Ready EAGLE in order to hone their skills as hazard responders.
Tech. Sgt. Travis Beckwith, 31st Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of medical readiness, said, “Essentially, contractors came out to train our MDG on how to be more effective when the Medical Contingency Response Plan (MCRP) is activated. They taught training to 18 distinct MCRP teams in all phases of disaster management: Command and Control, responding to patients in the field, how to be more effective when decontaminating patients and treating patients that come back to our facility.”
Ready EAGLE is a new type of training that the Air Force is rolling out which includes contractors training medical personnel on disaster management and contingency response plans. Aviano AB is the second in the AF to go through this particular training.
“BE participates on exercises like this at least quarterly or as the mission requires,” said Maj. Joshua Rackley, 31st AMDS BE flight commander. “We usually try to exercise with other agencies like Emergency Management, Fire Department, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal and it most definitely makes us better prepared for our real world response mission.”
During this particular exercise, BE started by preparing their equipment for transport, as being able to immediately respond to different types of scenes is important for their mission.
The equipment, all tested for use before leaving for Ready EAGLE, included protective gear such as boots, full chemical suits, masks, and also, oxygen tanks and environmental scanners that can evaluate the conditions on scene.
Rackley said, “The BE flight regularly trains to make sure that our personnel can meet the technical and physical demands of real world response scenarios. This includes functional exercises, like dexterity drills while wearing chemical suits, as well as technical education to ensure that our personnel are able to effectively use our equipment and interpret the results.”
Exercise Ready EAGLE provided BE an opportunity to go through each step of a real world scenario in order to better prepare for possible hazards or disasters. Starting with a call in the morning, BE then proceeded to gather information as a team, implement their response plans, set up stations on scene and have some of their members get fully suited up to measure potential biological or radioactive hazards.
“Based on the information that the entry team finds in the hot zone we can identify hazards, quantify them, and develop a health risk assessment for the incident commander,” said Rackley. “This health risk assessment is used to determine PPE requirements for other responders, actions for the base population and helps 31st Fighter Wing leadership make decisions about the base mission.”
After the exercise was completed, BE was able to reflect on how to better their response plans.
Rackley said, “We identified some areas for improvement that will help us operate quicker and more efficiently but overall, BE did a good job and was able to accurately identify the exercise hazards and provide recommendations to the Incident Commander.”
Whether for exercises or real-world scenarios, BE plays a vital part of the 31st MDG mission. They work together with other medical flights to safeguard Aviano Air Base’s most precious asset – its people.
“BE works with several flights to ensure the health and safety of responders and the base population,” said Rackley. “Coordination with the Medical Lab helps ensure quick and accurate identification of potential biological agents. BE works with Public Health to recommend and implement disease containment protocols if necessary and BE provides hazard identification to the medical providers to ensure proper treatment of casualties. These are just a few examples of how BE works with other flights in the 31st MDG to protect the Wyvern Nation.”