FORT PICKETT, Va. --
Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 26, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein) worked to perfect their mass casualty evacuation operation skills here over a three-day period.
The Marines and Navy corpsmen worked on perfecting their execution of the complex process with a series of increasingly difficult scenarios that tested them in every aspect of the exercise.
From taking off at the airfield, to securing the mass casualty scene and treating the simulated casualties, to evacuating all involved back to the launch point, every aspect of the evolution was monitored and critiqued by instructors from the II Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group.
A mass casualty is simply when the amount of wounded overwhelms the amount of medical care immediately available. This can occur in a number of circumstances a MEU might encounter, such as natural disasters, accidents, combat or terrorist attacks. Hospitalman Michael J. Price, SOTG instructor in charge of the training, said the mass casualty evacuation scenario is an essential part of the training MEUs must assimilate.
“It’s important because part of a MEU’s mission is to respond to a (mass casualty scenario); this gives them the best ability to respond to, plan and execute a mission,” he said.
Price explained that the total mission package involves much more than just getting off of a helicopter and treating the wounded.
“This deals with not only the response of the Corpsmen, but also the security of the landing zone and site,” he said, adding, “They also need to be able to respond not only to U.S. personnel, but also civilians and insurgents who may be injured.”
Price said mass casualty scenarios are often a part of other missions with which the MEU may be tasked.
“Going by real-world events, mass casualty situations are the norm,” he said, adding that often the mass casualties are in conjunction with other missions like a noncombatant evacuation operation or a humanitarian assistance operation.
Lieutenant Col. John Giltz, commanding officer of CLB-26, said the mass casualty scenario is important because, “This is one of those things we could be called on to do; we have to be able to respond quickly, assess the casualties, and return them safely home.”
Giltz explained that being proficient in this mission is especially important for the morale of units who may be subject to attack, ambush or casualties.
“They have to know we can get to a scene of a mass casualty, recover them and get them back to the rear,” he said.
The MEU’s mission makes it especially well-suited to being able to do these types of missions explained Giltz.
“Most of the things a MEU does are because bad things are happening in bad places, or we have to do good things for people who happen to be in bad situation,” he said.
In addition, he said because the MEU is a complete Marine Air Ground Task Force, it can plan, carry out, and complete these types of missions without any outside assistance.
Giltz said that happens because, “There is not a single mission that a single element (of the MEU) can do; they require the cooperation of all the elements and the assistance of the Navy.”
The 26th MEU is at Fort Pickett to do the first MEU-wide training exercise of the six-month predeployment training period. This means that the units inside the MEU are working to build unit cohesion with team-building exercises.
The MEU begins complex training evolutions such as mass casualty exercises, noncombatant evacuation operations, and humanitarian assistance operations so early in the training cycle because many of the pieces inside the elements came together recently.
This means they need time to build the team and personal skills necessary to perform missions smoothly, said Giltz.
“I have gotten 200 Marines new to the CLB in the last 7 weeks and we have to get to know each other and learn to work together,” he said.
Chief Warrant Officer McAllister, maintenance officer for CLB-26 and Marshalling Area Coordinating Officer for the CLB-26 mass casualty team, agreed it is essential to start training for these types of missions at the beginning of the training cycle.
“There are so many Marines from different (Military Occupational Specialties) involved in this and it is such a complex operation that you have to start training for it now,” he said.
Giltz explained that throughout the course of the training period Marines will assimilate all the skills necessary for the upcoming deployment.
“Simple things are hard right now, but the hard things will become simple by the end of the predeployment training period,” he said.
The training at Fort Pickett is only the first step in the predeployment training process which will take the disparate elements of the MEU and form them into a cohesive, versatile unit able to quickly respond to any mission it may be tasked with when it leaves on its upcoming, scheduled deployment in late fall.
For more news, video, and information about the 26th MEU visit www.26meu.usmc.mil.