Nearly 100 Reservists, guardsmen, and corpsmen participated in triaging, transporting and treating simulated mass casualty patients during the Mega-Code 14 exercise here July 26.
Mega-Code 14 is a joint medical training exercise designed to enhance communication, preparation and readiness amongst the various sister units and services by leveraging the full medical capability of March Air Reserve Base.
“It’s how you take a patient from point of injury and bring them back home,” said Capt. Venus Victorino, Medical Readiness Officer, Mega-Code 14 Lead Planner, 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron.
It also supports a new concept called the Unit Effectiveness Inspection, which gauges how well March ARB effectively conducts its mission, said Chief Master Sgt. Cheryl Wente, Medical Group Superintendent, 452nd Medical Group.
“It’s actually an inspection; we’re trying to exercise our capabilities in how we interact with all the other agencies involved,” she added.
The entire exercise took approximately nine months to organize and included participation of various units including the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 752nd Medical Squadron, 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, 163rd Medical Group (California Air National Guard), and Navy Occupational Health Support Unit, Camp Pendleton Detachment D, said Lt. Col. Deborah Lehker, Chief Nurse, Lead Mega-Code 14 Planner, 752 MS.
“You know what the patients go through, what process and what step; how to get them in the system and get them to the next point of care, and then back into the system again and back to their final point of care,” she added when describing how the joint exercise was designed.
Participant victims began the exercise by preparing early at the base medical clinic, applying makeup to mimic bone fractures, chest wounds and other injuries. A simulated earthquake officially started the half-day exercise, and participants were transported via a bus, customized with metal supports designed to carry patient stretchers known as litters.
Many of the victims that participated in the exercise were junior enlisted personnel by design, said Col. Karl Edelmann, commander, 452nd Medical Group. Many of the victims who participated will get experience and grow and lead the exercise in the future, he added.
Victims were triaged and accounted for at a makeshift battalion aid station on the lawn adjacent to the fitness center, where members of the Navy’s Det. D obtained identifications of the victims and made note of the injuries each person sustained. Victims were encouraged to provide challenging experiences for first responders, including displaying symptoms of shock in conjunction with their physical injuries.
“I think of this as a refresher skills and training from A-school in basic training,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Johnny Jolin, Hospital Corpsman, Det. D. “The experience is closest to deployment situations.”
“We have all casualties and are en route to EMEDS [Expeditionary Medical Support Facility]”, said Ensign Joseph Galan, Critical Care Nurse, Det. D, who assessed that all victims were ready for transport to the EMEDS facility in building 458.
The EMEDS is a mobile operating facility that can provide around-the-clock medical services where victims were partitioned into separate areas depending on the severity and type of injury sustained. Some victims were awaiting intravenous solution due to hydration issues and others were staged in an operating room awaiting surgery.
Each area was separated by polyvinyl chloride pipe, or PVC, and covered in long pieces of fabric that acted like walls to simulate deployed environments, in which building materials are not readily available, said Lt. Col. Deborah Lehker, Chief Nurse, Mega-Code 14 Lead Planner, 752 MS. Knowing how to create what is known as a building of opportunity is critical for planning where sanitation, patient care, and running water areas should be constructed, she added.
The victims were transported via bus and ambulance to various emergency medical facilities in order to practice patient transport and flow, with the final location being a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, said Major Alicia Skibar, Education and Training Officer in Charge, Mega-Code 14 Project Manager, 752 MS.
Critical Care Air Transport Teams from both the Guard and Reserve practiced unloading critically injured patients from an ambulance and transported them onto the C-17 aircraft during the end of the exercise.
“This is the first time I’ve been out here,” said Senior Airman Christian Puga, respiratory therapist, 163 MG. “It was well-done and nice to see, participate (in) and load a plane.”
Airmen donning black utility gloves carried over a dozen victims on litters into the C-17. Once all victims were situated and secured in their respective locations on the aircraft, training briefings were conducted on flight safety before the exercise was officially concluded.
“This is exciting for us,” said Skibar. “What we learn off of this exercise is going to help determine what our training is going to be like in the future, what more we need to focus on, if anything. It will help with comradery amongst the medical as well as the sister branches.”
The success of the exercise has bolstered the Mega-Code 14 leadership team to expand the scope of the exercise next year to possibly include Travis Air Force Base, California, incorporate chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear scenarios and fly exercise participants between both bases, said Lehker.
“Col. Edelman and I are very pleased with the planning that went into this,” said Wente. “There’s been a lot of hard workers behind the scenes.”