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Air Guard medics rehearse crisis response

Tech. Sgt. Danny Watton and Tech. Sgt. Travis Davis, medical technicians from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Medical Group, transport a mock patient with a bi-lateral femur fracture from the emergency room to the ward in an Expeditionary Medical Support field hospital. The medical technicians were participating in “real world” exercises at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cally Handa)

Tech. Sgt. Danny Watton and Tech. Sgt. Travis Davis, medical technicians from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Medical Group, transport a mock patient with a bi-lateral femur fracture from the emergency room to the ward in an Expeditionary Medical Support field hospital. The medical technicians were participating in “real world” exercises at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cally Handa)

ALPENA, Mich. -- When disaster strikes, Air National Guard medical teams are called upon to save lives. That's why 47 members of the 162nd Medical Group from Tucson International Airport deployed here for Expeditionary Medical Support, or EMEDS, training at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center here, June 23-30.

The devastation of natural disasters, such as 2005's Hurricane Katrina, present many humanitarian challenges. When fixed medical facilities and hospitals become overwhelmed or nonoperational as a result of the calamity, the National Guard plays a vital role in not only ensuring law and order and food distribution, but also provides much needed medical attention to the surrounding population.

The Arizona medics made the trip to northern Michigan to set up and operate from Alaskan Shelter Tent Systems - mobile hospitals with 25 available beds each. In true expeditionary style, seven members of the 162nd Force Support Squadron fed the group warm meals and boxed lunches from a containerized kitchen.

Tech. Sgt. Sam Chaney, a dental technician, described the temporary medical facilities as condensed, mini-hospitals, with labs, operating rooms, emergency rooms, intensive care units, forensics, logistics and a ward.

"If you can make it to an EMED tent, your rate of survival increases immensely," said Chaney.

Training center inspectors observed the medical crew during the eight-day training period, evaluating their ability to handle critical situations that resulted from a host of scenarios including building fires, earthquakes and active shooters.

According to Lt. Col. Christine Rhodes, hospital administrator for the group, the cadre of inspectors assisted in identifying strengths and weaknesses while preparing them for deployments overseas or within the United States.

"They were looking to see if you can play the game in the real world as you do in training, addressing any shortfalls that exist during the mission," said Rhodes.
The Arizona Guardsmen worked alongside three additional Air Guard medical groups for the common purpose of stabilizing patients before moving them on to the next echelon of care.


Click here to view photos from the Alpena EMEDS training.