Road Traffic Accident in Bosanski Petrovac

Capt. Christine Bazarin
First published April 28, 2003

Two SFOR vehicles lie smashed on either side of a quiet country road following a head-on collision that leaves six British soldiers injured. With no help in sight, one shaken soldier places a call to the Operations Cell of the United Kingdom Battle Group (UK BG), while others lie covered with blood amongst the wreckage. All they can do now is wait for the blue lights.

Mrkonjic Grad - Fortunately this scenario was only part of a Blue Light Exercise that was conducted outside of Mrkonjic Grad on Apr. 17 involving members of the UK BG's Quick Reaction Force (QRF), blue light ambulance teams, and an airborne Immediate Response Team (IRT) from Headquarters Multinational Brigade Northwest.

An opportunity to train together
Brigade-organised exercises such as this are held at least twice over a six-month period for every new BG. They provide emergency response elements an opportunity to train together to ensure a mutual understanding of each other's requirements, capabilities and roles.
"The main intent of this mass casualty exercise is to assess the immediate reaction of the Battle Group in providing first aid and on-scene command and control, in conjunction with the Brigade's Immediate Response Team," said Maj. (UK) Stephen Lawrence, the HQ MNB-NW Staff Officer for Medical Operations.
Once members of the QRF secured the scene, medics prioritised the casualties and attended to injuries that ranged from a fractured leg, facial lacerations, and chest injuries to an unconscious casualty with multiple injuries.

One of the firsts to arrive on scene was Lance Cpl. Sarah Neon from Aldershot, Kent who, in her two short years with the Royal Military Police, had never dealt with a mass casualty situation before.
"When we turned up to the accident and saw there were six casualties I thought oh my goodness, what do I do?" said Neenan. "I just did what I was trained to do - check how many casualties there were, report back to my commander and deal with the casualties as they come until the medics arrive. Doing what you can for them, and trying to make them feel at ease is the most important thing, is what I've been taught."
Before long the IRT arrived in a Dutch Cougar helicopter to provide further medical care to the casualties and to evacuate the more seriously injured to a Role 3 Multinational Integrated Medical Unit (R3MIMU) hospital in Sipovo. This didn't actually occur though, as the exercise was called to an end at this point.

Sucked in when seeing casualties
In the debrief that followed, Lawrence praised all participants for their efforts, but also emphasised the need for improved command and control of the scene, and communication procedures between air and ground teams.
"The general response from the BG was extremely quick and they took initial command of the situation, but people always tend to get sucked in when they see casualties - and always at the expense of the overall command and control. The operation tends to slow down if you don't have someone standing back and directing exactly what goes on," said Lawrence. "The initial response was very good, and I hope they can refine the things they need to improve for the next test exercise."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Canada
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Cpl. Duncan Lindsay

Medics stabilise a casualty before transporting him to the waiting IRT helicopter.


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A member of the Quick Reaction Force calls for Immediate Response Team support following a simulated traffic accident.


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A Royal Military Police member provides basic first aid until the blue light ambulance team arrives.


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Lance Cpl. Sarah Neenan takes a statement from one of the British soldiers involved in the accident.


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An accident victim receives basic first aid from a member of the Quick Reaction Force who has arrived on scene.