Colorado Guard aircrews participate in annual medical disaster exercise

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Members of the Colorado Army National Guard participated in an annual National Disaster Medical System exercise August 17, 2016, around the Denver area.

The COARNG provided a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and two LUH-72 Lakota helicopters, along with crews for each aircraft.

“The National Guard's role in domestic operations and exercises like this is to assist local responders in a support role,” said Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nicholas Missler, CH-47 instructor pilot. “The incident commander is in charge of the whole exercise.”

The responsibilities of the air crews were lined out as follows: facilitate safe landing and take-off procedures by relaying the Air Operations Plan with all pilots and medical crew, establish guidelines relating to strict safety and security while operating on and around the flight deck, tracking of all air resources from time of exercise activation to time of exercise release, coordinate all take-offs and landings while confirming the absence of hazards, and ensuring the safety of all personnel and patients.

“In the exercise scenario, the medical system is overloaded and the National Guard is requested to provide transportation capability in helicopters to move patients from a triage center on to awaiting hospitals in the surrounding area,” said Army National Guard Maj. Troy Brown, Army Aviation Support Facility commander.

The air crews transported over 100 patients from the Denver International Airport to Denver area hospitals, where the hospital staff proceeded with their own portion of the NDMS exercise to test their medical procedures.

“The exercise provided us the opportunity to train with, become more familiar and develop relationships with interagency partners to maximize safety, efficiencies and effectiveness of our support operations,” said Brown.

After the hospitals finished their patient processing drills, the helicopters and crews picked the patients up and returned them to DIA.

“After this exercise, we are now better prepared to respond to an actual emergency of this kind,” said Missler. “It provided us a relevant training opportunity to maintain our readiness in domestic operations.”

The COARNG patterned with many different organizations to make the exercise possible including the Federal Coordinating Center, Denver International Airport, Veterans’ Administration, and many others.

“In the last 10 years this is our sixth training event supporting the NDMS exercise,” said Brown. “The relationships we have developed over the years are crucial to our mutual success in the future.”