Military Feature: Emergency situations simulated

Courtesy photo: Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh Members of a Special Weapons and Tactics team simulate the rescue of “hostages” during an exercise.

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

Military and civilian agencies faced a simulated hostage situation, mock biological, chemical and nuclear crises, and personnel with realistic-looking injuries — all in the interest of keeping Cannon Air Force Base and local responders prepared for emergencies.

In a joint training exercise at Cannon and Plains Regional Medical Center, Clovis police and hospital and Cannon personnel blended their expertise for a mock terrorist scenario.

Inter-agency plans were made weeks in advance for last week’s exercise, with one day targeted as the worst possible for responders in the form of role-playing.

That day began when Tech. Sgt. James Pitts, playing the part of a depraved terrorist, turned visiting Reserve Officers’ Training Corps college cadets on a base tour into hostages, Cannon spokesman 2nd Lt. George Tobias said.

The Special Response Team from the Clovis Police Department was called in to work with Cannon’s Security Forces squadron, negotiating the release of the “hostages” and neutralizing the “suspect,” Tobias said.

Use of simulated chemical, biological and nuclear materials added to what already seemed like a tense scene.

PRMC staff received “incoming wounded” calls throughout the day, complementing Cannon’s initial field-level medical responses with long-term stabilization and continuing care measures, according to hospital quality manager Terri Marney.

Personnel from the base playing the role of patients arrived with realistic-appearing injuries, putting medical workers through the paces of communicating, triaging and treating the injured, Marney said.

She said the civilian and military need to know how to work together in case of an incident.

“(Cannon has) a good triage system out there, but for the continual care, that’s going to take a hospital,” she said. In 21 years at the hospital, Marney said she has been on hand for many inter-agency exercises conducted with Cannon.

The benefit is always mutual, she said.

“We always like to communicate with Cannon and exercise with them because they have such knowledge about wounds (and other things). They’re a valuable resource when it comes to stuff like that,” she said.

“We’ve always worked well as a partner with that.”