Eglin Airmen prepare for air show with night-MARE scenarios
By Staff Sgt. Mike Meares, 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 05, 2007
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Eglin Airmen watched as their worst fears played out in front of them April 3 on the flightline.
They had their emergency response skills put to the test during a major accident readiness exercise with an F-16 Fighting Falcon crash simulation as the base readies itself to host the 2007 Eglin Air Show, Heritage to Horizons...Celebrating 60 Years of Airpower, April 14-15.
One of the skills tested was a simulated F-16 crash into the on-looking crowd while at the air show. The scenario tested responder's ability to assess and treat a large number of casualties, while securing the crash site and removing bystanders. It's a night-MARE scenario Eglin Airmen must be ready for -- just in case.
Firefighters took to the scene to assess the "casualties" while security forces secured the perimeter and removed unharmed "civilian witnesses." Medical Airmen treated victims with realistic wounds as they were evacuated from the area.
Master Sgt. Mike Curry, 96th Air Base Wing inspector general office and exercise director, knows that accidents can occur from more than three years traveling with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. He has witnessed three civilian aircraft crash, two of which resulted in fatalities.
"We do scenarios like this with as much realism as possible to keep Eglin's emergency management forces prepared in the event something were to happen at an air show," Sergeant Curry said. "Accidents at air shows have happened before. If we have an unfortunate incident happen here, we need to be ready."
The MARE tested the Eglin's emergency response plans and capabilities in the event of a catastrophe. During this MARE, Airmen were exposed to three separate scenarios in a short amount of time to test their mettle: a vehicle borne chemical weapon attack, an F-16 Fighting Falcon crash and a bomb threat aboard a C-130 aircraft.
Each air show is unique, so a contingency plan must be tailored to the specifics of the air show and then practiced. Although an incident of this magnitude is unlikely, Eglin must be prepared for that remote possibility.
"Unfortunately, we can't predict the future," Sergeant Curry said. "Doing an exercise close to the event helps everyone involved to practice their procedures and get in the prepared mind set for the event. So, we practice hard in preparation of an uncertain future."
The contingency operations boss for the air show, Maj. Kyle Torster, 796th Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Flight commander, heads up a team that hopes for the best, but is prepared for the worst.
"If something goes wrong, what would we do?" asked Major Torster. "It's our responsibility to plan for the unknown and be ready to answer that question."
This team must be ready to handle the "routine" mishaps that arise when thousands of people come together like sunburns, skinned knees and twisted ankles.
"There's an inherent danger when you invite 100,000 people to your front lawn for a party," Major Torster said. "There is a potential ability to overwhelm the limited emergency response capability; therefore we're looking at the above and beyond."
Especially when that front lawn has so many weapons of war on display in a post 9/11 world.
"There's a higher degree of risk associated with a large number of aircraft doing maneuvers that are not done on a daily basis here," the major said.
During the air show, aerial demonstrators like the F-16s of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, the F-15 West Coast Demonstration team, "Stallion 51" a P-51 Mustang and a T-6A Texan II are some of the aerial performances scheduled. The Doolittle raiders, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, launched sixteen B-25s from the aircraft carrier Hornet in a daring raid on five Japanese cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe. The Disabled American Veterans Airshow Outreach Program is scheduled to fly two B-25s in front of the crowd during the air show.
With many demonstrations in the air and static displays on the ground, units like emergency services, fire, security forces and medical, already have plans in place to deal with potential crises; the committee ensures those plans are up to date and ready to implement.
"The squadrons are on line and know what they need to do to work any situation," Major Torster said. "I essentially ensure we're all on the same page and I know what the appropriate response will be."
This MARE gave Team Eglin the opportunity to actually test these plans under exercise conditions, so they're ready. Those responses have been practiced and put into motion in the form of plans for this year's air show.
"Eglin Airmen are professionals, ready for any challenge," said Sergeant Curry. "Throughout the year Eglin Airmen perform numerous types of exercises to ensure if and when any contingency arises, they are prepared to resolve it. We have put a lot of emphasis on preparing for this year's air show. Eglin's Airmen are ready."