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NC Air Guard Participates in Emergency Exercise

  • Published
  • By By Spc. Miko Holloran
  • North Carolina National Guard Public Affairs Office
The 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron joined several other agencies in a National Disaster Medical System exercise Aug. 12 at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The Air unit, which falls under the North Carolina National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing, participated in a four-hour interagency exercise which focused on each agency's ability to respond to a hurricane emergency that required moving patients from the impacted area. The exercise also involved local, regional, state, and federal agencies.

"The goal here is to run through the steps of a natural disaster," said Air Force Master Sgt. Diego Santos, the medical crew director of the 156th AES. "We're here to figure out what works and what doesn't."

The scenario chosen for this training opportunity involved a simulated hurricane that hit the heavily populated South Florida. The hurricane caused serious damage to medical infrastructure, which required the evacuation of several hospitals. As the designated patient reception area, those in the exercise prepared for a plane load of patients to arrive to be transported to local hospitals.

"This kind of exercise is good for us because it's a different entity we're working with," said Air Force Capt. Chad Ghorely, medical services corps officer. "We are used to interacting with other military members; here, I can educate the civilian force about the equipment we have and the capabilities of our unit."

Other agencies that took part in the training scenario agreed that the N.C. National Guard's role was definitely an important one.

"It's absolutely imperative that the Guard is here," said Brian Womack, assistant director of Emergency services. "We definitely need the support, whether it's a training event or an actual emergency.

"The Guard has the assets that no one else has," Womack said.

Rick Rhodes, the exercise director, agreed with Womack.

"It is critical that the Guard participates," said Rhodes, who is also the area emergency manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs. "If this was a real emergency situation, they would be who we would work with. It's good to work with them and get to know them before an actual disaster."

While many of the agencies practiced emergency plans that they were already familiar with, one Airman was able to receive special on-the-job training.

"I haven't been to my additional school yet, so this exercise has really helped me understand my job," said Airman 1st Class Joylynn Sumner, an air evacuation technician with the 156th AES. "This is my first exercise with the unit, and I think my experience here will really put me ahead of the game."