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Blue light and red smoke

By 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer #101, November 22, 2000

Mrkonjic Grad - "Who wants a broken nose and sore lips?" asks the doctor, Capt. Syed Masud. A soldier raises his hand and steps forward, getting his wounds and symptoms thoroughly described, before the make-up team brings them alive. A wide variety of make-up-injuries are dealt out, injuries which will soon be a hard challenge for the British medics due to arrive.

It's time for another Exercise Blue Light. This time the British Battle Group at Mrkonjic Grad must show their standards. While medics from 1st Combat Service Support Regiment (CSS) in Sipovo deals out injuries, their attachment in Mrkonjic Grad, along with troops from the 2nd Battalion of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (2PWRR), are most likely the first to start treating them.

The scenario: a minibus full of soldiers back from leave hits a Land Rover loaded with ammo. To make it more difficult, the minibus is tipped over, making it really hard to get the injured passengers out. At the Black River Bridge, a few kilometres northeast from Mrkonjic Grad, the scene is being set. With ammo and explosives scattered around, things won't be any easier for the rescuers.

"They will meet chaos, shouting, screaming and lots of different wounds. Many of them hidden," said Masud. "It's a difficult scene for the medics. In that way we will see how they handle a situation where they haven't got their nice warm room around them. This is a very good exercise for them, although we plan for it never to happen for real."

Pvt. Wayne Morgan is gets the finishing touches on his injuries. "Guts" are hanging from a nasty looking abdominal wound and his shoulder is red and bruised.
"I'm a passenger in the Land Rover. It's great fun and good practice, although it's cold sitting here topless while the makeup is laid," laughed Morgan.

To set off the alarm, two of the casualties flag down an MP patrol driving by from Mrkonjic Grad. Hysterical screaming, painful cries and red smoke welcome the Redcaps to the disaster. Cpl. Steve Whiten and Lance Cpl. Mark Douglas start immediately securing the area and call for backup.

"We knew we were coming to an incident, but had no idea what it would be," said Whiten.
"First we tried to assess what had happened, and then we try to assess what's next," said Douglas.
While Douglas prods his way to the tipped minibus, Whiten reports in vital information via a satellite phone. With screaming sirens, medics and troops arrive from Mrkonjic Grad. Minutes later, a Sea King helicopter from the Incident Response Team (IRT) located in Banja Luka shows up.

These teams have EOD engineers, medics, and fire fighters on board. The latter carry hydraulic tools which can be used to cut through wreckage like butter. Useful equipment when you have a tipped over minibus full of screaming casualties.
One by one, the injured are evacuated from the wreckage and given treatment before transport. Some of the casualties acting skills could qualify for an academy award.

"We try to make things as realistic as we can. And we try to make it awkward, because nothings really easy in a situation like this," said Pvt. Darryl Rochelle, one of the medics dishing out acting instructions and wounds to the casualties.

more photos

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK,
Training and Exercises