Misawa Airmen rally for simulated disaster
Stripes Japan | .
published: May 05, 2016
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Helpless and covered in moulage, numerous Airmen and civilians cried out for rescue across the main base housing area.
These volunteers were part of an emergency management exercise held over the course of two days, April 26-27, that simulated the potential aftereffects that could occur if a natural disaster struck Misawa Air Base.
"We had a simulated 8.2 magnitude earthquake which forced the reactions of all agencies available to respond," said Lt. Col. Kevin Lord, 35th Fighter Wing inspector general. "This scenario allowed us to practice varying forms of self-aid buddy care and emergency recovery, all in response to a natural disaster."
This was a unique opportunity for Misawa to exercise a specific scenario, as opposed to more typical operational readiness exercises which focus on the generation of aircraft and the 35th FW's ability to mobilize and respond quickly to contingency operations.
"Throughout the year, Misawa AB is tested on numerous scenarios ranging from simulated mass-casualty accidents, to aircraft crashes," said Lord. "Being prepared for anything is what keeps the 35th FW able to efficiently respond to anything."
In particular, this exercise tested the capabilities of emergency responders including support units like the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron and 35th Security Forces Squadron, enabling them to exercise taking control of a potentially dangerous situation and ensuring base safety is maintained. Responding to feigned power outages, downed power lines and even simulated fires, more than 500 35th CES personnel alone were called to action.
To enhance Misawa's ability to account for injuries during a natural disaster, simulated or real, the 35th Medical Group has also taken steps to ensure they are able to house a large number of victims.
"When patients exceed normal capacity, the expansion bay will be utilized to care for injured patients," said Capt. An Phan, 35th Medical Support Squadron Medical Readiness Flight commander.
Because this simulated earthquake was larger than previous ones, a secondary aftershock was simulated during the afternoon of the same day, bringing even more injured personnel into the scenario and the expansion bay.
In cases where the 35th MDG expansion bay fills to capacity, Misawa AB also becomes a hub as wounded and injured individuals are air-evacuated to facilities at Yokota AB, Japan, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii.
Although this instance was a simulated natural disaster, it isn't the first time Misawa has had to respond an earthquake - in March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck the Tohoku-region of Japan, leading Misawa Airmen into action to help their Japanese neighbors.
"Similar to what Misawa AB did during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, our main priority is to take care of the base and local community," Lord said. "It only benefits to practice response efforts with the Japanese colleagues we work with."
In line with the recent series of earthquakes that have affected the Kumamoto prefecture in the Kyushu-region of Japan, these exercises help to further the ability of U.S. service members stationed in Japan to respond in a supportive role.
"Earthquakes are a very real possibility in Japan, so to practice coordination with everyone only helps to strengthen our capabilities and our relationship with the Japanese partners we work with," added Lord.