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Tue, Jun 20, 2006

'Sound The Crash Alarm! This IS A Drill!'

Iraqi First Responders Conduct Shakedown Exercise

It was an ordinary emergency readiness drill -- just part of the routine for firefighters at airfields all over the world.

You know the deal... an aircraft is positioned as if it has "crashed" or made an "emergency landing" and firefighters, rescue crews, and paramedics are all put through their paces. What could be special about that?

What's special is that it happened at Baghdad's New Al Muthana Air Base, and was all-Iraqi, with the Iraqi Air Force providing one of its C-130s and role players, and the Sather Fire Department testing the training of its new crews.

In addition, medical and security elements participated.

This exercise builds on an earlier casualty exercise conducted by the medical and security forces, but let the firemen -- including five newbies with only six weeks of training -- and Air Force participate for the first time.

How important are these emergency exercises? Accident investigators credited a similar exercise that had just been completed in Sioux City, Iowa with great savings of life in the 1989 crash of United Flight 232, a DC-10. When the accident happened, all the city's and airport's first responders knew exactly what to do and how to work together.

After years of isolation, many Iraqis are eager to adopt best practices from the rest of the world, even in something as seemingly routine as airfield emergency services.

The firemen had to get into the C-130, and evacuate casualties. They simulated extinguishing a fire inside the cargo plane, and then hustled the "victims" out. First responders set up a triage point and the "casualties" were prioritized and treated.

The exercise was a success on several levels. It not only demonstrated that the Iraqi emergency crews could do their jobs, it showed that they could conduct a complicated joint operation. Of course, there's always room for some improvement -- which is why participants expect to conduct many such exercises in the future.

(Aero-News salutes the staff of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's "Advisor" magazine, and particularly photographer Capt. Greg Holmgren, USAF.)

FMI: www.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil/advisor.html

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