MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Sprawled on the sun-baked tarmac, Airman Augustine Godinet moaned that he couldn’t feel his leg. Upon first glance, his right leg looked spliced at the thigh; bone appeared to jut out and blood oozed in a scene so real that it almost could have been from a Hollywood movie.
But the acting and fake gore were staged for an exercise here Thursday. Godinet was among 100 American and Japanese military personnel pretending to be injured or killed by a fiery F-2 crash at an air show. The mandatory drill is preparation for the annual bilateral Misawa Air Festival, scheduled this year for Sept. 10.
For the exercise, the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Misawa teamed up to practice a coordinated disaster response to what would be a worst-case scenario.
“It is jam-packed,” said Capt. Shannon Schneider, 35th Fighter Wing chief of wing inspections. “The impact of something crashing into the crowd would be horrifying.” The wing’s moulage team knows how to bring that adjective to life: With an array of costume makeup, homemade blood, flesh-colored putty, prosthetic bone and skin adhesive, the military moulage artists worked feverishly Thursday to transform exercise volunteers into ghoulish victims of second-and third-degree burns, head trauma, and chunks of flying debris.
“Realism helps the medics respond better and take it more seriously,” said Tech. Sgt. Polly Miller, moulage team member and dental laboratory craftsman with 35th Medical Group.
The lifelike wounds can trigger a first responder’s adrenaline and emotions like a real disaster might, the team said, producing very real reactions to a make-believe scenario.
“I think back to one scenario about two years ago,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jere Brewer, moulage team chief and 35th Medical Group medical operations superintendent. “A responder thought it was real and had to be taken to the emergency room. They (responders) just walked in; it was one of those surprise things.”
Stomach-turning trauma wasn’t always part of the exercise script at Misawa. Brewer said the moulage team formed about three years ago under wing inspections and was given a small budget for materials. Prior to that, a hospital worker was occasionally tasked with make-up duties for an exercise, but with only one person doing the work, the wounds weren’t very detailed, Brewer said. The team now consists of four airmen, with an additional two in training, and has expanded beyond the medical group.
Senior Airman Jonathan Walker, an aerospace apprentice jet engine mechanic, was signed on after Miller observed him drawing. “I was so impressed with the shading. I thought, ‘Man, he would really like this,’” she said.
More examples of the moulage team’s gruesome workExposed intestines? Not a problem …
A key ingredient in the moulage toolbox is fake blood, either a commercial variety or homemade, says Senior Master Sgt. Jere Brewer, moulage team chief and 35th Medical Group medical operations superintendent. The former comes in a powder and just needs boiling water. A two-quart jug of liquid starch mixed with red, blue and yellow food coloring and some water produces a similar product. Blood gel caps or Karo syrup tinged with food coloring is used for blood in the mouth, Brewer said. And “if it’s to resemble coughed-up blood from a gunshot wound, we put in coffee grounds,” he said.
To create the appearance of a burn, tissue paper with frayed edges is glued to the skin (with special skin glue) and flesh-colored foundation is applied to the tissue and skin “to get a nice even look,” said Tech. Sgt. Polly Miller, moulage team member and dental laboratory craftsman with 35th Medical Group. A layer of red and blue costume make-up is next, with black on the edges for a singed look, Miller said. Slap on some Vaseline “to make it look blistery and pussy,” Miller said.
Also sitting in the moulage kit are condoms to re-create intestines hanging out. Stuff them with cotton balls, cut a shirt open, tape it across the abdomen with a piece of cardboard, spray it with fake blood, and voila!
— Jennifer H. Svan