Sarajevo International Airport site
of Red Wings exercise
Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker
First published in
SFOR Informer#140, June 6, 2002
It's an average Monday morning with people travelling
to and from work. The day is mildly cool with skies slightly
overcast. It is business as usual. Suddenly the unexpected
occurs. Thick clouds of choking black smoke appear in the
sky. High-pitched wails of emergency vehicle sirens descend
upon the once peaceful morning. A plane crash has occurred
at the Sarajevo International Airport. The dead and wounded
must be removed from the scene, fires need to be extinguished.
Sarajevo - Have no fear, the above scenario is a training
exercise that took place May 27, at the Sarajevo airport with
SFOR troops and local civilian fire and rescue teams.
Exercise a success
"Overall it went very well," said French Col. Thierry
Mounié, commander DETAIR. "The main objective
of this exercise was to test the ability of the local firemen
and the local medical team from the airport. Concerning those
teams I think it worked - I would say perfectly."
"The main objective was to test their (civilian emergency
teams) ability to respond to a military air crash on Sarajevo
airport," he said.
Airport Fire Brigade responds
"My impression was the exercise was very good for the
fire brigade," said Kemal Cacan, head of the Professional
Fire Brigade Division, sector Airport.
He said the firemen responded well to the crash. Trucks were
on site within minutes of the crash. Hoses pumping out thick,
white chemical spray quickly doused the flames at the crash
site. Fire Brigade personnel were busy with the task of removing
casualties from the plane. For Cacan the training learned
by working closely with members of DETAIR helped with the
success of the exercise. When asked about the transfer of
responsibility from military to civilian emergency teams,
he replied, "I think we are ready for complete responsibility
of the civilian airport."
The upcoming transition has been in the works for a while.
Cacan explained that the training process has been ongoing
for the past two years. "We have worked together, I have
learned many things," he said about training alongside
members of the French DETAIR.
Medical teams treat casualties
Inside the fuselage of the downed aircraft bodies lay strewn
about, some limp and lifeless, others burned and bloodied.
The strained sound of victims crying out in pain could be
heard above the din of fire fighters working to keep the fire
under control. Emergency Medical Team personnel arrive on
site and quickly begin administering first aid to the victims.
According to French Lt. Col. Bernard Maunier, deputy commander,
DETAIR, within 24 minutes of the crash, casualties had been
evacuated from the crash site to a triage centre where further
medical treatment was administered. The area was set up in
one of the fire brigade garages at the airport.
"I was very satisfied with our medical team," said
Dr. Jasminka Kovacevic, emergency medicine specialist. "The
emergency medical team service of Sarajevo was very good in
the exercise because co-ordination was high."
Kovacevic's background with medicine includes training in
the United States of America, and other western countries.
She said the level of the medical team's work is very high.
"Our preparation in working in emergencies is more than
six years," she explained. "We have the same standards
as in most western countries."
Kovacevic was one of the evaluators on site that morning and
stressed just how satisfied she was with the medical team's
Members from several countries took part in the exercise to
include Moroccan and Italian troops who played the role of
crash casualties. German medical troops worked closely with
the emergency medical team assisting them with the evacuation
of the casualties to the local hospital.
Airport manager positive about transition
The transfer of responsibility to the civilian emergency teams
at the airport is fast approaching. For airport general manager
Bakir Karahasanovic, the upcoming change is a positive event.
"On behalf of the Airport Company, I am very satisfied
with the results achieved at the level of the exercise,"
he said. "The training and exercise of security staff
is everyday business. It's our long-term orientation of course
to be as good as possible because there is no absolute security,
nor safety in life, and particularly not at the airport."
French troops pulling out of DETAIR
The Red Wings exercise was conducted by MND (SE) to see how
well prepared the civilian rescue teams are for the transfer
of responsibility. "Now we are going to see what we have
to do to make this hand over possible," Mounié
explained. "The next step is to finalise the take over
by the civilian fire brigade and medical teams on paper."
Mounie explained that France intends to withdraw DETAIR troops
entirely from SFOR by the end of 2002, and that members of
the French detachment will begin leaving in June.
The first troops arrived in DETAIR shortly after the beginning
of the war. It was July 24, 1992, approximately ten years
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