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Exercise tests Belvoir's first responders
by Sgt. Ed Passino
MDW News Service

Fort Belvoir, Va., July 5, 2001 — What seemed like just another ordinary Thursday morning at the Military Police desk here June 29, quickly turned when MPs received a call from a frantic woman about 10 a.m.

"There was an explosion, wounded soldiers are laying all over the place. There are little kids too," the woman yell into a cellular phone directed to the military police desk sergeant on the other end.

"We need help, send somebody, they're going to die," she raged on.

Spread out across the amphitheater grounds 13 wounded soldiers lay, some apparently unconscious, others groaning in pain from rent limbs and other wounds.

Before the woman got off the phone, Military Policemen Sgt. Douglas Becker and Spc. Anthony Clingerman arrived on the scene.

After taking a quick survey of the grounds Becker and Clingerman realized this was a training exercise.

"The 'First Team' organizations knew that there was going to be a Post MASCAL [mass casualty] training exercise some where on post. But they didn't know the location, the day or time it was going to happen," said Percy Perry, mobilization officer for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security here. "This exercise was designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion," he said.

Despite the scenario being a training exercise, Becker and Clingerman evaluated and provided first aid to the wounded soldiers.

"You start with that half I'll go over here," Becker shouted to Clingerman as the two began providing medical relief. "And watch out for any bombs or devices."

Within four minutes another pair of MPs arrived, one providing help to the wounded while the other began roping-off the scene.

"We, as law enforcers, and medics are in the saving lives business. If that means putting our lives in danger to save a group of people, that's what we have to do," Clingerman said, explaining why he and Becker decided to enter the explosion site before it had been deemed safe by an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. "You think people waited for the EOD after the Oklahoma City bombing? Of course not," Clingerman said, as he wrapped a plastic wrap over the exposed internal organs of a wounded soldier.

The Fort Belvoir Fire Department arrived soon after and provided stretchers as the MPs carried the victims off the site.

"The 'first response' is anyone from the MPs, fire department, or MEDDAC," Perry said. "All are involved and have their specific roles. But the number one priority of this exercise was to see how these units worked together in responding to terrorist action.

"Fort Belvoir is vulnerable to a terrorist, or other man-made threats. Every military installation in the world is," Perry said. "And at any time a terrorist, or common criminal, act could occur without warning."

Members of the emergency relief department from DeWitt Army Community Hospital arrived and provided transportation to the hospital for the injured who required further medical attention.

"We do MASCAL training periodically throughout the year," said Sgt. 1st Class Donald McCasland, the noncommissioned officer in charge of training for MEDDAC. "Normally our MASCAL exercises are internal, but this one was designed to test our external response. We dispatched one ambulance immediately after the initial call, and then a second to set up an on-site triage to provide medical care."

The results of the exercise showed rapid deployment and communication within the "First Team."

"At the end of the exercise only one soldier died," Perry said. "All three 'First Team' teams responded quickly and with the right equipment to limit casualties. The units did a great job of communicating with one another which showed in the results and evaluation of the training exercise."

(Passino is a staff writer with the Fort Belvoir Eagle.)

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