Tucson ANG tests incident response at airport’s emergency exercise

Airmen from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing conducted hands-on training in a multi-agency emergency exercise hosted by the Tucson Airport Authority, March 10m, 2020, at the Tucson International Airport.

Fifteen of the wing’s security forces and fire personnel trained alongside city, county, and national agencies in the triennial exercise, mandated by the Federal Aviation Regulation Part 139, to test the airport’s emergency planning and response.

“Every three years the Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial service airports to exercise mass casualty drills, so today is our triennial, full scale exercise, and we involved all sorts of agencies because we can’t do this alone,” said Danette Buwley, president and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority.

This year’s exercise, nicknamed “Operation Drone,” simulated a scenario where a drone landed on a passenger jet’s wing and exploded. Community volunteers acted as distressed and wounded passengers aboard the plane, and emergency responders, including firefighters from the 162nd Wing, were tasked with evacuating, triaging and transporting passengers based on their simulated injuries.

Senior Airman Juan Yepez, a member of the 162nd Security Forces Squadron, Morris Air National Guard Base, Ariz., patrols the perimeter during a training exercise at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., March 10, 2020. The drill provides the 162nd Wing’s security forces team an opportunity to participate in an exercise with hands on training. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Aubrey Pomares)

“When we talk about these drills, we start off with getting volunteers, and we’ll have the full moulage, where they’re getting the injuries put all over them,” said Buwley. “They’ll be tagged with what their injury is, and that way, when first responders get to them, they are seeing what the injury is and they are treating them and they’re triaging them and putting them in the right place.”

In addition to the rescue and medical response, law enforcement elements were also put to the test by managing scene security and coordinating with federal partners.  

“Our job was to man the main entry control point for all first responders, as well as traffic control points along the route to the play area,” said Master Sgt. Abraham Pena, 162nd Security Forces Squadron Unit training manager. “We got to go over an operational order and joint partnership with the FBI, Homeland Security, and we got to see how they operate from a security and law enforcement standpoint.”

Overall, exercise participants said the collaborative aspect of the training helped community partners prepare in the event of a real-life emergency.

“I thought the overall the training experience was good for our guys,” said Master Sgt. Pena. “The value in this is to develop the joint partnership with our neighbors, TIA, as well as outside agencies, in order to facilitate our capabilities in response to any type of crisis or incident they may have.”

Two actors playing injured passengers wait in triage during an emergency services drill at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., March 10, 2020. Around 300 people, including volunteer actors, participated in the training exercise. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Aubrey Pomares)



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