USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Sailors are tirelessly honing their skills in mass casualty drills during the ship's current Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) period and Final Evaluation Phase (FEP).
The premise behind training for mass casualties is to better prepare ship's company, particularly security and medical personnel, to respond to potential emergency situations. It helps Sailors to better understand the roles they will play if disaster strikes the ship.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Dana Bingham of Truman's medical department said all Sailors can either be potential victims or assistants during an actual emergency. Bingham, whose normal mass casualty assignment is to escort victims from the scene of the accident to medical facilities, said this stresses the point that all Sailors should educate themselves about what could happen during a real mass casualty.
"If an actual casualty happens, there may not be enough medical and dental personnel to take care of the entire ship's company," Bingham said. "In the event that something happens to us, the crew needs to know how to handle the situation."
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (AW) Tim Hand from the "Seahawks" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 126 feels that the crew benefits from the drills, but believes this training is equally beneficial to squadron personnel and urges them to participate.
"Mass casualties are the preparation of our combined medical department to utilize all crew members and effectively provide assistance and appropriate care as fast as possible," Hand said. "When the embarked air wing is forward deployed, it gives us [as a strike group] the chance to work as a unit. TSTA allows us to work as a team during drills and allows the air wing's maintenance personnel in the hangar bay and flight deck to integrate with the ship's staff as stretcher bearers and various other roles."
During mass casualty drills, personnel are sorted by the condition of their injuries and are brought to a temporary medical facility for urgent treatment and holding until better medical arrangements can be made.
"Usually, when we get word of a casualty, the corpsman currently on medical readiness team duty assesses the situation, then contacts Damage Control Central to make an official announcement to the ship," Bingham said.
"By that time, the rest of us are in medical, standing by at our stations or in place on the hangar bay or the aft mess decks."
During mass casualty drills, Sailors play different roles. "Victims" lay lifeless, scream for help or exhibit signs of injuries, while their shipmates organize temporary medical treatments. Stretcher bearers, medical personnel and security staff are tested, assisting personnel in shock, setting boundaries and safely transporting personnel to medical facilities for further immediate treatment.
Afloat Training Group (ATG) Atlantic evaluated the ship's casualty drills during TSTA/FEP on how well Truman's Sailors adjusted to dealing with situations and how well the ship's medical department facilitated the drill. According to ATG, the entire crew must be prepared for actual casualties because everyone on board has a potential role. Whether it includes containing the situation, providing casualty assistance or acting as a stretcher bearer, every member of Truman's crew must exhibit credible knowledge in the case of an emergency.
During TSTA/FEP, Truman's Medical department has at least three mass casualty drills with at least one graded by ATG, as well as several other shipboard evolutions, such as General Quarters drills. These drills improve the crew's ability to respond during real or potential threats and improve the overall performance of the ship.
"ATG remains a valuable service as we are a carrier strike group preparing for a deployment," said Hand. "They remind us of all the little things that we should remember and could make a difference during an actual casualty."
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