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Exercise Red Wing

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#126, November 14, 2001

On Oct. 26 the airport at Mostar witnessed a multinational rescue force in action. The event was Exercise Red Wing which sought to prepare and assess the emergency and response teams of Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE). Many nations were involved in dealing with the aftermath of a simulated air disaster.

Mostar - The shrill whistles of the Italian Carabinieri cut through the considerable background noise that permeates the runway at Mostar. French fire crews tackle a blazing fire, while behind them, medical units already attend to the wounded. However, some of the passengers have been thrown from the stricken aircraft and lie bleeding in a minefield. Despite all of this, each element of the emergency response teams is calm and goes about its business in a professional manner.
That this is so is of immense satisfaction to the German Capt. Jens Hahne who was part of the team that put the exercise together. He explains that aims of the exercise are "to evaluate the divisional assets for medical emergencies, to validate standard operating procedures for Mostar and practice troops at all levels." He outlines what is going on behind the scenes: "When the disaster 'occurred,' a crash circle is initiated with the control tower, which presses an alert, which first reports to the operations centre (MND-SE HQ). From then an Operations Centre Crises Cell (OCCC) is establishedOn the airfield an Advanced Crises Post (ACP) is set up, and passes information back to the OCCC. Through a series of liaison officers and radio communications, the response to the emergency is co-ordinated and assets activated."
Crash sight
Around the ruined fuselage, medical teams swarm. Further away less wounded personnel are gathered while the severely hurt are being treated on the spot. German Maj. Weber, the divisional surgeon, acts as the exercise assessor for this area. He points out that there are several medical teams involved but "everyone knows what to do. The director, everyone goes to him, to find out who is to be treated." He believes that the exercise is "the most important thing for the medical services in the camp." As the medics work, Pvt. Antony Grolleau of the French Security, Fire and Rescue Section stands with his hose directed towards a possible fire hazard. Meanwhile the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team MND-SE expertly evacuate the casualties from the minefield. Spanish 2nd Lt. Luis Eduardo Parra of the Spanish EOD unit explains the procedure: "The first man prepares the area and recces the crash sight; the second makes the mines safe." This was his second Red Wing exercise, which he thought was "similar to the last one, but more realistic."
Aid Post
Hahne highlights other activities: "From the Moroccan medics on the cutting edge, the wounded can be taken to the Medical Advanced Post (MAP)." As this is going on, a dull "thud thud" of a Cougar helicopter arriving from Ploce can be heard. Shortly afterwards a German CH-53 Helicopter from Raijlovac lands as well. Both have come to aid with the casualty evacuation. This fact does little to perturb the French team at the MAP. French Cpl. Brice Lehardy sits calmly typing in the details of the injured. As he explains, "Here the names, surnames, nationality, arrival time, diagnosis and departure time of the wounded are noted." He believes that "it is necessary to exercise so that if a plane crashes in reality we are prepared." As more patients arrive and others are rushed to the helicopters Lehardy continues to coolly work on his computer.
On board the Cougar, French Capt. (Doctor) Raphael Guyon Vevillet co-ordinates the continuing flow of wounded.
"I am the Medevac (Medical Evacuation) doctor," he says. "We can be airborne in 15 minutes. It is a very good job. I fly and it is interesting for a doctor to transfer the patients from the scene to the hospital."
Although this is only practice today, the medical team on board have had plenty experience of the real thing, as Guyon Vevillet remembers: "One month ago we treated six wounded persons at a road traffic accident."
The exercise ends as the last wounded are evacuated. On the airfield the minefield has been cleared and the emergency vehicles withdraw, another job well done. At the OCCC, however, there is still much activity as the after action review begins and the Director of Recovery Operations, French Maj. Laurent Arth, controls the closing stages. He is pleased with the results as he remarks, "All the assets came rapidly and were well co-ordinated by the military policeoverall I am happy with the way that it went." With that, another Exercise Red Wing draws to a successful conclusion.

Related link: Training and Exercises