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AFNORTH surgeon general team evaluates DSCA medical response capabilities

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • Air Forces Northern Public Affairs
Two members of Air Forces Northern’s Surgeon General’s office are watching months of their planning efforts unfold here during an Expeditionary Medical Support confirmation field exercise, April 16-21, as they evaluate the 81st Medical Group’s response to simulated tornado aftermath.

Capt. Lee Laughridge, chief, AFNORTH Medical Operations and Training, and Jeff Brandenburg, chief, AFNORTH medical plans and logistics, worked throughout the year with agencies across the Air Force Medical Service enterprise to plan the scenario that exercises the tactics, techniques, and procedures of EMEDS during a contingency.

“We wanted to do an exercise to evaluate the status of current capabilities of the medical portion of AFNORTH’s Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission,” Brandenburg said. “We’re looking at agency interoperability, logistics, communications, and supply chain issues to identify both strengths and areas that may need attention.”

Assisting Laughridge and Brandenburg with the contingency operations evaluation are a team of 12 observers from different specialties in the medical community.

As exercise participants from the 81st MDG at Keesler AFB, Miss., arrive at the Camp Atterbury site, Laughridge and Brandenburg briefed Lt. Col. Jack Vilardi, 81st MDG operations officer, about the exercise scenario: several EF 5 tornadoes had ripped a path of destruction in and around Indianapolis, producing grapefruit-sized hail, sleet, snow, and heavy rain. Medical expertise was necessary to assist since local medical facilities were damaged or destroyed and the extent of injuries and fatalities are undetermined but thought to be possibly catastrophic.

As the exercise began, more than 90 members from the 81st Medical Group went to work, building a full-up medical support facility from pre-positioned pallets of supplies on site. But just as they started, local “patients” needing immediate attention began showing up on site.  Medics responded and worked around medical group personnel continuing to build the facility. Patients were quickly evaluated and moved to an area where they could be made as comfortable as possible.

“We wanted to inject the sense of urgency into the environment,” Brandenburg said. “In a real-world contingency situation, the luxury of uninterrupted time to put together a medical facility simply doesn’t exist.”