By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer
CAMP GRUBER — More than 900 U.S. National Guard personnel participated in an exercise Wednesday that simulated the result of a large earthquake.
The troops were from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Texas. The exercise, named “Vigilant Guard,” simulated the effects of an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale in northeastern Arkansas.
The Guard members were pressed on a number of issues, such as treating and dealing with the injured, and recovering wounded people from debris.
“What were they exposed to? How do they need to be treated?” Lt. Col. John Ballard said. “It’s all necessary so they can determine how they’ll be treated when they get to a larger facility.”
Actors, costumed to look like as if had been injured in the earthquake, stumbled toward soldiers. Some peacefully listened to the soldiers, but others had been instructed to present a problem, and would fight and argue as Guard members tried to place them on stretchers.
Elsewhere, more than a dozen Guard personnel removed rubble and sawed through cement to reach two “survivors” — actually mannequins.
Further into the camp, a series of medical tents housing dozens of wounded had been erected. Guard units there continued to treat patients who had been identified by soldiers at another location.
As the patients were being treated, an officer yelled “Gas! Gas!” Soldiers quickly pulled on gas masks and got back to work.
“You see that they continued saving lives, continued working,” Ballard said. “They protect themselves, but they keep working.”
Darrin Letsinger, a senior medical officer in the Louisiana Air National Guard, said the medical tents could be constructed in as little as 35 minutes.
“We can be treating bare bones-type stuff in as fast as 20 minutes,” Letsinger said. “We’re simulating there being an enormous amount of wounded people. It’s about treating them here, and fixing them enough to get them out of here so they can survive the trip to a larger, fully equipped hospital.”
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