ABOARD THE USS PONCE, Persian Gulf — Stretcher bearers carried patients from a helicopter on the flight deck of the USS Ponce. Inside the ship Lt. j.g. Mark Abadilla, an intensive care nurse, and other medical personnel stood ready to provide lifesaving medical care.
It was only a drill as part of a broader international mine countermeasures exercise in the Persian Gulf last month. But with actors daubed in blood and moaning, a bystander might have mistaken them for real casualties.
And the medical staff treated them as such, hooking them up to monitors and having blood supplies on hand.
But there was one patient that caught even the medical personnel by surprise. The planners of the drill included a patient whose injury could not be faked. One of the mock casualties was a real amputee, hired by 5th Fleet to be a role player in the exercise.
And to add to the pressure, not only were evaluators closely looking over the medical staff’s shoulders taking notes, but this was a high-profile event that earned a special visit from the commodore and the captain of the ship.