Marines grapple with mass casualty exercise at Balikatan
CLARK FIELD, Philippines — As the olive-green fire truck raced toward the helicopter “wreckage,” Marines began blasting a high-powered stream of water even before the truck came to a stop.
Dressed in shiny silver fire suits, the Marines jumped out, grabbed their gear and headed toward the massive helicopter shell resting on its side.
The Crash, Fire and Rescue personnel from Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, based on Okinawa, responded to Wednesday’s mass casualty exercise as if it were a real emergency.
“We’re typically on the scene, laying down water at a maximum time of three minutes,” said Staff Sgt. Juan Marquez, crash chief.
Marquez said the first thing his Marines do is extinguish the fire to prevent further loss of life or equipment damage. He said they then search for the best entry point to look for the victims, assess the scene and notify medical personnel about the status of each of the injured.
“Once there are no more victims to take care of, we do a perimeter search to look for anyone who may have jumped or been ejected,” Marquez said.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Smith, crew chief, said no two accidents or training scenes are the same. “The challenging thing is the unknown,” Smith said. “Things are always going to be different.”
Marquez said the Clark Field training is rare for his Marines. He said they never get the opportunity to exercise using “real” helicopters. The unit is in the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan 2004. While the mass casualty drill included only U.S. personnel, Marquez said a much larger exercise is being scheduled during the last week of Balikatan that will include units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.