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Marines, sailors execute mass casualty exercise

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The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a mass casualty training event at Fort Pickett, Va., as part of their pre-deployment training program Sept. 14.

“A mass casualty is an overwhelming amount of casualties that the MEU can handle,” said Chief Petty Officer Ryan S. Auclair, Clearwater Beach, Fla., native and leading chief petty officer for Special Operations Training Group. “It was a practical application and a learning phase for the MEU. More than likely, as the [26th MEU] deploys it will be one of the major roles they potentially tend.”

The training started when two MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 Reinforced, the 26th MEU’s air combat element, worked with the ground combat element and the logistics combat element by picking them up and dropping them off at the casualty site to simulate an aerial troop movement. The training went in two separate operations, giving both elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force a chance to complete the exercise.

The GCE, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, and LCE, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, both trained for days prior to this exercise on setting up and securing a perimeter around the designated location with guidance and instruction by SOTG instructors. The training started simple, adding more casualties as days went on and culminating with a scenario consisting of 15 casualties that were hit with an improvised explosive device and an ambush.

After the aircraft touched down and the back ramps hit the deck, Marines rushed out to assess the scene and set up a defensive perimeter.

“Besides the casualties, the Marines have to learn to deal with other situations such as relatives or spouses trying to help their loved ones,” said Marty Klotz, Special Operations Training Group subject matter expert. “Once you get passed that, there are two other types to worry about, which are bad guys. The first type are guys looting the bodies. The other guys to worry about are ones who will set up booby traps on the bodies to create more casualties.”

As the Ospreys taxied more Marines to the site, the Marines started tending the victims, applying immediate first aid. During this time, corpsmen from the units set up four staging areas to identify different classifications of injury severity.

Auclair said the four levels of injured, from worse to least severe, are urgent, priority, routine and convenience.

Once the corpsmen treated the wounded as best they could, the ground units loaded the injured on litters and into the Ospreys for a medical airlift, getting the injured to a facility that can provide better treatment. Auclair said, a mass casualty is a constantly changing scenario. Mass casualty equals mass chaos.

After the injured were airlifted to better medical care, the Marines withdrew from their defensive perimeters, returning to the Ospreys for an airlift away from the scene.

According to Marine Corps Order 3502.3, the MEU must be proficient in mass casualty, providing basic training to MEU elements involved in a mass casualty response, including security elements, marshaling area control officer, litters, litter bearers, and medical parameter personnel.

“Mass casualty originated after the barracks in Beirut were blown up, Oct. 23, 1983,” said Klotz. “We had some problems with it because we weren’t designed to deal with that. The commandant came out and said from now on, every MEU will be trained in mass casualty and how to go about setting that up.”

This is the first training event all four elements of the 26 MEU’s Marine Air-Ground Task Force have worked on in a coordinated effort since their composite Sept. 7. The 26th MEU is scheduled to deploy in 2013.

Article by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels, 26th MEU