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Guard rehearses response to airliner crash

After a simulated plane crash, Senior Airman Bruce Noble (left) and Senior Airman Michael Beller, firefighters assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing, work together to evacuate a casualty during a major accident response exercise at Tucson International Airport.

After a simulated plane crash, Senior Airman Bruce Noble (left) and Senior Airman Michael Beller, firefighters assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing, work together to evacuate a casualty during a major accident response exercise at Tucson International Airport.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Air National Guardsmen at the 162nd Fighter Wing, honed their skills during a major accident response exercise here, March 26. The scenario called for base first responders to react to a simulated 737 airliner crash at Tucson International Airport.

The Arizona Guard unit, which resides on 92 acres on the northwest side of the airport, shares security and fire control duties with the Tucson Airport Authority (TAA).

"From a training perspective, this validated TAA and the 162nd's ability to handle a mass casualty incident," said Lt. Col. Byran Edmonds, exercise evaluation chief.

"Our firefighters did a good job integrating with Tucson Fire Department, TAA Fire Department, Rural Metro Fire Department and Raytheon firefighters to handle more than 100 casualties," he said.

According to Senior Airman Michael Beller, 162nd firefighter, the exercise afforded valuable experience in the field.

"It was as close to real as you could get," he said. "The actors we had out there knew exactly how to simulate their injuries because they were all emergency medical technician students from Pima Community College."

The exercise also tested the wing's implementation and operation of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the new federal government construct for agencies to execute command and control of emergency response.

The EOC was formed under the Air Force Incident Management System (AFIMS), which was implemented Air Force-wide in December 2007.

AFIMS, which was introduced by Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne in 2006, brings Air Force operations in line with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, which calls for the establishment of a single, comprehensive national system for managing domestic incidents.

"We met all of our goals for this application of the EOC," said EOC Director Lt. Col. Karen Bence. "We had a timely notification and arrival of all of our EOC components, and all the participants were able to exercise their roles and responsibilities for this incident."

Colonel Bence, who serves as the 162nd Mission Support Group commander, said the wing will continue practicing its emergency response through AFIMS and will expand its use of the system's new communications lines.

"We could tell that this system will help all responding civilian and military agencies relay information using a standardized communication system and terminology," she said.