White Rectangle

Saving lives through the sky

  • Published
  • By Sgt. True Thao
  • 364th Press Camp Headquarters
Picture it-a devastating earthquake strikes and injures hundreds locally who then fill local hospitals here to maximum capacity. What happens to the countless others who are in dire need of medical attention?

The Air National Guard participated in Alaska Shield 14 by conducting a patient evacuation training here March 31, 2014. Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise involving federal, state and local agencies, including supporting military units, and is designed to test response and coordination efforts in simulated scenarios modeled after the 1964 earthquake disaster.

Air National Guard units from California and Nevada worked alongside the Alaska Army National Guard and state and local agencies, training in a patient-movement exercise at Valdez Pioneer Field Airport in conjunction with local officials. Role-playing patients were transported from Valdez to Fairbanks, Alaska using a C-130 Hercules.

This exercise provided beneficial training in the event that the local hospital here became inoperable or overwhelmed with patients. The exercise required precise collaboration among all entities in transporting patients to other locations throughout the state. The training provided the military units involved practical training that will better equip them to handle real-world situations.

"An exercise like this prepares us for the real-world events," said Master Sgt. David Winger with the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. "This exercise allows us to support the citizens of the United States."

This exercise also included agency support from the lower 48 states where Alaska can receive emergency aid if needed.

"Alaska has a lot of support from the lower 48 states to make their mission happen," said Winger. "Being that Alaska is so far, they need support in any kind of disaster."

An exercise like Alaska Shield 14 creates a camaraderie among the agencies, allowing them to work together swiftly to complete the mission.

"I think it's great we are doing joint exercises," said Maj. Michael Fugett, chief of operations with the 192nd Airlift Squadron out of Reno Air National Guard Base, Nev. "This exercise allows us to come together and work as one team."

Fugett, who has been a pilot for 15 years, said that exercises like Alaska Shield 14 can be very beneficial to all agencies participating in the exercise. The state-wide exercise allows agencies of different levels to come together in one place to test their preparedness when catastrophic events occur.

"We can all be trained at different places and live in different places and then come together and know exactly what to do," said Fugett.

Alaska Shield 14 marks the 50th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that rocked the state of Alaska in 1964. Exercises like these provide all military and civil agencies the necessary training required to effectively collaborate and respond to a tragedy of such significance, should history repeat itself once again.