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Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a real medical emergency call involving an unconscious base employee at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The first responders answered the emergency call in the midst of an ongoing simulated aircraft crash exercise scenario.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a real medical emergency call involving an unconscious base employee at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The first responders answered the emergency call in the midst of an ongoing simulated aircraft crash exercise scenario. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The scripted emergency scenarios devised to kick off a basewide exercise gave way to an actual urgent situation Tuesday, providing a real test of the 86th Airlift Wing’s ability to respond.

An elderly man who was later identified as a resident of Germany employed on base was found unconscious near Ramstein Middle School, officials said Tuesday, adding that he had been evacuated by air for medical care. No information was given about his condition.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a real medical emergency call involving an unconscious base employee at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The first responders answered the emergency call in the midst of an ongoing simulated aircraft crash exercise scenario.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a real medical emergency call involving an unconscious base employee at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The first responders answered the emergency call in the midst of an ongoing simulated aircraft crash exercise scenario. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

At the time, even the wing’s inspection team, which was evaluating a mock aircraft crash response, didn’t know the details of what had really happened.

When the call about the real emergency came in, some firefighters grabbed their gear, jumped in one of about half a dozen fire trucks at the scene and took off with lights flashing.

Meanwhile, U.S. military and German first responders on the base continued to treat the patients retrieved from the plane at the simulated crash scene: six mannequins and one airman.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group tend to a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a base-wide exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group tend to a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a base-wide exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group rescue a victim mannequin trainer during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group rescue a victim mannequin trainer during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. During the exercise scenario, firefighters were challenged to respond to an aircraft that missed the flight line and crash-landed with seven airmen on board.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group respond to a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. During the exercise scenario, firefighters were challenged to respond to an aircraft that missed the flight line and crash-landed with seven airmen on board. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group enter a training aircraft during Operation Varsity, an emergency response exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group enter a training aircraft during Operation Varsity, an emergency response exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters with the 86th Civil Engineer Group stand up a mobile incident command during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Germany, July 26, 2022. The response was part of Operation Varsity, an exercise testing the 86th Airlift Wing’s ability to respond to major emergencies including the blast of sirens signaling a fictional tornado and a simulated aircraft crash.

Firefighters with the 86th Civil Engineer Group stand up a mobile incident command during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Germany, July 26, 2022. The response was part of Operation Varsity, an exercise testing the 86th Airlift Wing’s ability to respond to major emergencies including the blast of sirens signaling a fictional tornado and a simulated aircraft crash. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Tech. Sgt. James Bennett, 30, played the part well. Stage makeup applied by medical personnel to his hand mimicked a burn injury. After being helped off the plane, Bennett tore off his oxygen mask and rolled in the grass toward the other patients, repeatedly asking if they were OK.

First responders tried to treat the survivors. More than an hour after the call came in to respond to the crash, the firefighters were still waiting for the medics to show up. The patients still needed to be transported to the hospital for the exercise.

They would have been there by then if not for the real emergency call involving the elderly man, said Senior Master Sgt. Jimmy Drybola, the readiness section team chief for the 86th Inspector General office.

Firefighters and security forces patrolmen tend to victim actors and training mannequins during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The base-wide exercise Operation Varsity tested the 86th Airlift Wing’s ability to respond to major emergencies including a fictional tornado and a simulated aircraft crash.

Firefighters and security forces patrolmen tend to victim actors and training mannequins during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The base-wide exercise Operation Varsity tested the 86th Airlift Wing’s ability to respond to major emergencies including a fictional tornado and a simulated aircraft crash. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters and security forces members transport a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters and security forces members transport a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group tend to a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, an exercise testing basewide emergency response at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Group tend to a victim during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, an exercise testing basewide emergency response at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Firefighters with the 86th Civil Engineer Group receive feedback from Naciri Mehdi, a medical simulation specialist assigned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Firefighters with the 86th Civil Engineer Group receive feedback from Naciri Mehdi, a medical simulation specialist assigned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, during a simulated aircraft crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Senior Airman Philip Mathys, left, a firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron takes a blood pressure measurement on a medical training mannequin at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The mannequins provided first responders lifelike feedback, including vital signs, eye movement and audio responses.

Senior Airman Philip Mathys, left, a firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron takes a blood pressure measurement on a medical training mannequin at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. The mannequins provided first responders lifelike feedback, including vital signs, eye movement and audio responses. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

An 86th Civil Engineer Group airman stands ready with a firehose at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. First responders at Ramstein practiced the crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency response exercise.

An 86th Civil Engineer Group airman stands ready with a firehose at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. First responders at Ramstein practiced the crash scenario during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency response exercise. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Senior Airman Philip Mathys, left, and a fellow firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron provide first aid to Tech. Sgt. James Bennett, who played the victim at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

Senior Airman Philip Mathys, left, and a fellow firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron provide first aid to Tech. Sgt. James Bennett, who played the victim at the scene of a simulated aircraft crash during Operation Varsity, a recurring emergency exercise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

A firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Group places an oxygen mask on Tech. Sgt. James Bennett, who played the victim of an aircraft crash at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. Bennett is a radar, airfield and weather systems technician with the 424th Air Base Squadron.

A firefighter with the 86th Civil Engineer Group places an oxygen mask on Tech. Sgt. James Bennett, who played the victim of an aircraft crash at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. Bennett is a radar, airfield and weather systems technician with the 424th Air Base Squadron. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

An 86th Civil Engineer Group firefighter provides pressure to an abdominal wound on a medical training mannequin during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022.

An 86th Civil Engineer Group firefighter provides pressure to an abdominal wound on a medical training mannequin during a simulated aircraft crash scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2022. (Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Drybola said the wing commander would decide whether to pause the exercise for the day and continue it Wednesday.

“When we’re planning these exercises, we do our best to space them out throughout the year so that we don’t interfere with operations,” he said. “That’s always our goal, but you can never plan for the unplanned.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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