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MP medics practice mass shooting response in Fort Bragg exercise

By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 24, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Soldiers on Fort Bragg prepared for the worst Thursday — a mass shooting that left dozens dead or injured.

The exercise, in the 16th Military Police Brigade footprint, was aimed at more than improving the response to such a scenario at Fort Bragg.

Officials said the training, which Involved soldiers from five installations, would better prepare Fort Bragg and also help the response to such an attack at Fort Stewart, Ga; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Polk, La.; and Fort Campbell, Ky.

That's because soldiers from each of the 16th MP Brigade's five battalions — located on those installations — sent their medics to Fort Bragg for a week of training set to end Friday.

Maj. Dawn Ruminski, the brigade surgeon, said the training included classroom work and hands-on exercises, like the large training event Thursday afternoon.

That event involved more than 30 casualties, including soldier-actors and training mannequins.

The exercise also incorporated local partners, including a medical evacuation helicopter crew from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade and the emergency department at Womack Army Medical Center.

Ruminski said the idea was to put medics in a situation where they would need to act "beyond their abilities."

"They've been training this whole week," Ruminski said. "This is how they show how it all works."

For Thursday's exercise, leaders created a chaotic scene, with wounded soldiers hidden across the brigade area, suffering injuries ranging from minor cuts to fatal gunshots.

Covered in fake blood and makeup, the victims were marked with small postcards describing their injuries.

One has a gunshot wound to the neck. Another was shot in the chest while fighting the shooter. Others had gruesome wounds to their faces, torsos or limbs.

In the training scenario, a shooter has brought weapons onto post and has begun shooting soldiers outside of a headquarters facility. By the time the medics are called into action, their military police counterparts have already subdued the shooter and cleared the area. Now it's time for the medics to go to work.

First they spread out in search of the wounded, some of whom can be heard shouting for help or wailing in pain.

Then, they gather the injured, carrying them over their shoulders, strapping them to litters or dragging them to help, and begin to triage, prioritizing the care of the most severely wounded.

As the soldiers work, Sgt. Brett Gurley walks among them, barking instructions and recommendations.

"Take control and tell your medics where they're going," he tells one leader. "Why are there four medics for one patient? Prioritize your jobs and get them done."

Gurley, the senior medic for the 16th Military Police Brigade consolidated aid station, said the scenario could help soldiers cope with a mass attack at home or abroad.

Medics are outnumbered in the larger force, he said, and in a devastating attack, a few men or women may be called on to treat dozens or more.

In those types of scenarios, Gurley said soldiers must be able to treat more than one victim at a time.

"The goal is to keep the casualties alive," he said. "To do that, you have to identify their injuries and prioritize."

Once prioritized, victims were driven to Womack's emergency department, or carried to a nearby open field to be flown away by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division's medical evacuation company: Company C, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion.

The medics also had to care for bystanders suffering from the shock of the mock attack. Those soldiers broke down in front of the injured and had to be restrained.

"They're kind of in the midst of chaos right now," Ruminski said.

Officials said the event was not based on any particular mass shooting, including the recent attack on an Orlando nightclub that killed 49 and injured 53 others, or on previous attacks on military installations, such as Fort Hood, Texas.

The exercise's officer in charge, 1st Lt. Bryant Borges, said the exercise was a first in recent history for the brigade and would better prepare battalions, including the Bragg-based 503rd Military Police Battalion, for worst-case scenarios.

Borges said he hoped the event would become annual training for the medics, eventually growing in complexity to include an "active shooter" scenario where medics and police must work together in a potentially unsafe environment.

"They're developing best practices," Borges said, "because God forbid something happens at Fort Bragg."

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