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Emergency training. Red Wing exercise

By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001

Crisis situations do not call in advance. Are you prepared to deal with any eventuality? For instance, what happens if you are involved in an air crash? Like this one!

Mostar-Ortijes - The Multinational Division South-East (MND-SE) has undertaken Exercise Red Wing in order to display and gauge its emergency procedures in a crisis situation, simulating an aeroplane crash at Mostar Airport. The training involved a wide range of activities, from medical to de-mining assets.
The crash
It was nine o'clock in the morning, there was nothing significant to report in the airfield; suddenly an aircraft, a C-130 Hercules, made an emergency landing due to an unknown cause. The Mostar aerodrome control tower from the French Air Detachment (DETAIR) took control of the situation and gave the alarm, starting the emergency procedures for this situation.
The unlucky plane came crashing down on the south end of the runway, broken into pieces and started to burn. Smoky columns rose skyward, and scattered around the runway's surroundings. Some passengers and crew were fatally injured. Screams of pain and anguish could be heard everywhere. But that is not all! In addition, the crash area could be a possible minefield. Thank God it was not real, only the scenario for Exercise Red Wing.
The exercise staff is comprised of personnel from the five nationalities in the MND- SE (French, German, Italian, Moroccan and Spanish), integrated into different teams. In an international environment, the fact that the whole contingent has the same standard operating instructions is vital.
"This kind of exercise allows us to check how emergency procedures work and how they can be improved. This is the first time in MND-SE that so many teams are involved," said Spanish Maj. Juan Rodriguez Ferro, MND-SE Headquarters G5 Plans and Operations.
This simulated situation was aimed at validating and applying MND-SE emergency plans and procedures, training personnel reaction, testing co-ordination between the Operation Centre and the Advanced Command Post (ACP), activating one ACP and one Medical Advanced Post (MAP), and finally evaluating them.
The intervention
Far away, the smoke from the wreckage reported a tragedy. Sounds of emergency sirens swamped the air. Only three minutes later, three trucks of the fire brigade arrived at full speed at the crash area; in the twinkling of an eye the fire was extinguished. Behind them, the first aid team from DETAIR was deployed in the crash site. The Medical Incident Officer evaluated the situation and took over medical control. Casualties were triaged by priority and separated into three categories. At the crash site, two tents were pitched, the ACP and the MAP. New assets arrived, the Military Police deployed a safety cordon, co-ordinating with DETAIR security, along with one Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team with a double mission: recover casualties and the "black box" of the aircraft, both inside the minefield. They started to clean a mine corridor as well as delimiting a security perimeter around the crash site. "It is really good to practise in this context for real, integrating procedures and working together," commented Spanish 2nd Lt. Luis Parra San Jose, EOD team commander.
The whole procedure was under the co-ordination of the DETAIR ACP chief, French Lt. Col Sylvain Guillemain. "This kind of training is very important. We should go on doing this kind of exercise, at least once every two months. Soldiers change around and here in Mostar aircraft land with 150 passengers on board, and you need to be prepared," he said.
At this point everybody could see the paramount importance of communication and its proper use. Meanwhile medical teams (French, German, and Moroccan) carried crash victims on stretchers to the MAP, which looks like a field hospital. Casualties were treated by doctors, unfortunately some passengers died (of course not! only those who were playing that role). "The main point is the medical issue and the co-ordination," commented Guillemain.
The side-issues
It was at this time that another element appeared, local journalists looking for news. It is obvious that such an event like this could not pass unnoticed and the local press was there in a hurry. This was the mission of the Public Information Office (PIO) MND-SE to deal with the press and inform the journalists. The PIO answered media queries in a reactive posture in accordance with the evolution of the events, throughout its spokesperson, Press Releases and Press Conferences, always taking into consideration that information at that moment was very critical and important.
The air crash was a really difficult task, but they succeeded. The casualties were evacuated to more appropriate medical facilities; the situation was under control and finally air traffic was restored at the international airport Mostar-Ortijes, normality was back. But this is only the beginning of a new kind of exercise. "In this practice inter-nationality has not been an obstacle, the multinational crisis cell worked very well," commented German Capt. Jens Hahne, G5 Plans and Operations. "We are planning more exercises like this, involving many assets, Search and Rescue training and not only in the Camp, but also across the whole of the MND-SE area."

Related link: Training and Exercises