Exercise “Joint Anchor”

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1Lt. German Francisco Muñoz Rivas
First published July 31, 2003

SFOR trucks loaded with explosives were involved in a major road traffic accident (RTA)! So began exercise "Joint Anchor" on 23rd July, 2003, in the area of Stolac, involving Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE), together with the Entity Armed forces (VF) and Entity services of BiH (local police). The exercise tested emergency procedures and the co-ordination between the various elements participating in Contingence Plan Esculape.

Stolac - A situation is defined as having mass casualties when the number of casualties and the seriousness of their wounds is disproportionate to the treatment or evacuation ability in the area of the incident. Joint Anchor provided the emergency response elements with an opportunity to train together in order to improve the mutual understanding of each other's roles, capabilities and requirements.
Contingency Plan Esculape
The aim of this Contingency Plan is to define the methods and organisation to cope with a situation involving mass casualties. It is activated if any SFOR or SFOR-linked personnel are involved in an accident. The plan ensures that the means for rescue are always ready to deal with an accident with the appropriate assets and suitable communications, especially in areas with difficult terrain. The Commander's intent is to save the maximum number of lives, and to ensure the injured have the best chances of making a full recovery. MNB-SE conducts exercises to test the plan, at least three times each year, including simulating RTAs and aircraft accidents, in order to check the implementation and to improve or amend it.
The scenario
The initial scenario began with two trucks from SFOR and the Federation Army (VF) with escorting troops were transporting explosives from an entity weapons storage to a demolition site. On the way, the SFOR truck, exploded and the second VF truck drove off the road. All the other escorting vehicles were involved in the accident and as result, there were two dead SFOR soldiers and about 15 seriously injured among the SFOR and Entity soldiers. All the assets and teams as directed by Contingency Plan Esculape were put into action to evacuate all the injured soldiers. Spanish Maj. Manuel Carlier Lopez, the Joint Military Affairs (JMA) Deputy Chief based in Mostar stated, "The execution of this training is a real success, this is the first time that this type of training has involved armed forces from the Federation Army, with two helicopter from 1st Aviation Group and two trucks and eight soldiers from the 1st Corps 820 Motorised Brigade, who played the role of some of the injured people. We hope that the next time the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) will also participate in order to get a fully joint training exercise with all the Entities."
" This was a really good experience for all of us to work with SFOR and to get experience in dealing with a simulated accident. This is the first step towards better co-operation; from the beginning we were involved in all the planning and co-ordination of the exercise. We participated in the command control structure and provided the resources that SFOR required of us ", said 1st Lt. Rahic Enes from the 1st Corps VF Army, 820th Brigade.
3, 2, 1 Action!!!
Once all the observers and evaluators were in position to monitor the accident site, a call was made to alert MNB-SE that a simulated accident had occurred close to Stolac. "Each Brigade has to maintain a rescue team that is ready to move at short notice. The team consists of a medical team, an EOD team and an Advanced Command Post (ACP) with the appropriate communication assets. As soon as we have knowledge of a situation of mass casualties, we activate and deploy all the necessary assets of the Brigade and the injured are evacuated by ground or by air to the nearest medical facilities", explained French 1st Lt. Antoine Simmonneau, G3, "Training and exercise".
As soon as MNBSE received the grid co-ordinates for the location of the accident, the rescue team was dispatched. When they arrived at the site, by road and helicopter, everyone performed their tasks: The EOD team ensured the area was clear of mines and set up a secure area; the signal squad established communications with the BG; the military police provided an escort and secured the accident site in order to prevent spectators; and a medical squad carried out first aid assistance and made the initial diagnosis of all the injured.
The ACP reported the situation at the accident site to the BG and informed them of the reinforcements required. Helicopters from SFOR and Entities arrived at the scene and a platoon from the Spanish Parachute Company helped with the evacuation. Finally, the medical team carried out a complete examination, categorisation, and initial treatment in order to evacuate all of the injured by road or helicopter.
The whole exercise went extremely smoothly and to plan, and the overall assessment was very positive especially as the Entity Armed Forces and SFOR together worked so efficiently.

Related link: Training and Exercises

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Photos: Sgt. Maj. Giuseppe Melillo

The scenario is set to look as realistic as possible.


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All the injured were made to look as realistic as possible.


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The Advanced Command post establishing communications.


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The injured are quickly evacuated by helicopter.


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The EOD Team clear the way, quickly followed by the medical team.