George Washington Prepares For Worst with Mass Casualty Drill
PACIFIC OCEAN - Preparing for the worst of all possible scenarios, hundreds of Sailors from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) were put through a life-like mass casualty drill as the ship transited across the waters of the western Pacific Ocean, June 28.
The drill was an all-hands effort involving Sailors from George Washington’s Air and Medical departments, putting them to the test to quickly put out multiple simulated fires and to treat and evacuate dozens of shipmates with mock injuries and transport them from the flight deck to the ship’s medical ward.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Mark Rodriguez, the ship’s Air Bos’n, said the purpose of the mass casualty drill is to make sure that the ship’s force is training in real life scenarios.
“Day in and day out we’re flying and with this amount of aircraft on the deck, we can have an accident, a fire at anytime,” said Rodriguez. “That fire could spread from aircraft to another, causing a lot of injuries, especially with the amount of people we have up here.”
The drill began with a simulated aircraft fire spreading to another aircraft parked on one of George Washington’s four aircraft elevator. This prompting the flight deck crew to jump into action and battle the blaze before it spread even further.
“Our ultimate goal is to put out the fires and make sure all of the personnel casualties get to the designated casualty elevator and make it down to the hanger bay,” said Rodriguez.
Once those mock patients arrive in the hanger bay, hospital corpsmen and medical officers organize the wounded by the seriousness of their injuries; the most severely wounded are given priority and taken to medial first.
“From there we start moving those too wounded to walk by stretchers to the medical ward and if needed, we’ll activate the ship’s walking blood bank,” said Hospital Corpsman (SW) 3rd Class Anjuli Fine, one of Medical’s first responders.
According to Fine, the walking blood bank is made up of ship’s company who acts as George Washington’s blood supply while the carrier is underway; those who are able to donate blood in emergency situations.
“Our goal is to treat and transport the injured, get them out of the hangar bays so the ship’s force can continue to fight the fires without worrying about injured personnel caught in the way,” said Fine.
While Rodriguez called the drill a success, there is always room for improvement, especially when a life is on the line.
“Today was a great training opportunity” said Rodriguez. “For Air department, it was the first time we’ve integrated the drill with our squadron shipmates since we’ve been underway.”
“Getting out here today establishing a baseline with our actual training now and seeing where we need to be just gives us that opportunity to increase and become more beneficial with the training we have further on down the road,” Rodriguez added.
On the medical side, Fine checks his report card and gives his shipmates a passing grade.
“I think we did really good today,” said Fine. “We have been very fast and efficient lately and I think it’s due to the quality of the corpsmen that we have aboard the ship. We all work great together.”
The drill was held to help George Washington Sailors prepare for the upcoming Final Evaluation Period (FEP) inspection, but according to Fine, his biggest concern is always for the safety of his shipmates.
“Mishaps can easily happen,” said Fine. “We’ve had fires on the ship before and drills such as this help to keep our readiness up so that in the event that this happens, our training will not have been in vain.”
George Washington returned to patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific ocean on June 12, 2011, departing her forward operating base of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Onboard are more than 5,500 Sailors from George Washington and Carrier Air Wing Five. George Washington’s mission is to ensure security and stability in the Western Pacific and to be in position to work with our allies and regional partners to respond to any crisis across the operational spectrum as directed.