Blue light exercise
2Lt. Meghan Marsaw
First published in
SFOR Informer#149, October 10, 2002
A dreary, fog-covered patch of road and field provided
the perfect setting for the latest in a series of Blue Light
Exercises organised by Multinational Division South-West.
This particular medical exercise, held Sept. 21 in Gracanica
near Bugojno, is designed to test the Dutch Battle Group's
(NLBG) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and the multinational Immediate
Reaction Team's (IRT) response to a mass casualty situation.
Gracanica - Although these exercises are held at least twice
during a six-month rotation for each Battle Group (BG), this
particular Blue Light Exercise laid claim to the most complicated
scenario to date. Capt. Miklos Lelkes, who provides medical
advice to the NLBG, developed this particular scenario.
"We wanted to train every aspect of the QRF and every
aspect of the IRT helicopter," he said.
The scene was comprised of a two-vehicle accident that resulted
in eight casualties - one dead and seven injured with their
wounds varying in severity. The deceased was a civilian pedestrian
who was the actual cause of the accident as both SFOR vehicles
swerved to avoid him, lost control and found themselves in
a mixed minefield. The first vehicle wound up overturned in
the minefield while the second vehicle struck the man and
found itself upright but deep within the minefield.
The challenge for the QRF was to efficiently analyse the mass
casualty situation; determine how best to deal with the added
problem of land-mines; find a landing site for the IRT Cougar
helicopter that would bring the Mine Detection Dog and the
Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and ultimately evacuate the
most severely injured to the medical facility in Sipovo.
Time is of the essence when it comes to casualty evacuation.
However, a main problem here was how to effectively extract
the injured when the fields are riddled with land-mines.
"The main goal of this exercise was to test the procedures
of notifying and sending out the QRF," said Maj. Geert
Smit, Senior Medical Officer for the Dutch Contingent. "We
observed their medical procedures, how they handled the mine
threat and how they organised the scene," he said.
The first priority was securing the scene. With military police
and infantry assets this was done quickly. From there they
could concentrate on the extraction of the numerous casualties.
Until the Mine Detection Dog arrived in the IRT helicopter,
the QRF had to manually clear pathways to the victims. This
was extremely time-consuming and painstaking work, but essential
in order to protect the rescuers from becoming casualties
SFOR in action
Once paths were cleared they could get at the vehicles and
set about providing basic medical aid while others concentrated
on extracting the most serious victims for transport to the
nearest medical facility. This was a realistic and comprehensive
exercise that pushed the commander on scene and his team to
the limits. How they prioritised the scene and handled their
assets was key to their success.
With all of this activity going on it would have been strange
had a crowd not formed. Curious children from the area, as
well as a few adults, flocked to the scene to witness the
helicopter landing and see SFOR in action. They were allowed
in for a closer look and the SFOR interpreter provided an
explanation to the spectators. This was enhanced by additional
input from monitoring staff members who were also on the scene.
All in all the children agreed that SFOR had put on an entertaining
Related link: Training