YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Staff members of U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Yokosuka were among the many participants who braved severe inclement weather to conduct Big Rescue Kanagawa 2016 at Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Camp Takeyama, Sept. 11.
Big Rescue's mission is to strengthen interoperability between participating medical units, other agencies and bolster the resilience of local communities against disasters. Raising awareness among host nation citizens about disaster management is also a motive, while also reviewing manuals and agreements in place disaster control.
Distinguished guests representing the U.S. Navy on scene were Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, (CNFJ) Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter; USNH Yokosuka Commanding Officer, Capt. Rosemary C. Malone; and Executive Officer, Capt. Kristen Atterbury.
Those who participated felt the significance of the event.
"I believe that this is very important to the Navy, to each of the entities here, and the Japanese government that we participated with," said Lt. Thuy Phung, USNH Yokosuka Optometry Department head and Trauma Treatment Team (T-3) leader during the exercise. "This event was a drill to show that we can all work together well in case of a mass casualty. This is particularly significant since we live in a country that is extremely prone to earthquakes and typhoons. We should be prepared as much as possible on how to react during such a crisis."
Phung and her team worked closely alongside fellow care provider U.S. service members representing the Army from Camp Zama, Japan, and the Air Force from Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Commander, 374th Medical Group, Yokota Air Base, Col. Angela M. Montellano and 374th Medical Group Superintendent, Chief Master Sergeant Timothy Davidson represented the Air Force; Army representatives were U.S. Army Medical Department Activities-Japan, Commander, Col. Andre R. Pippen and U.S. Army Medical Department Activities-Japan, Deputy Commander for Clinical Services, Lt. Col. Mark Stackle and Chief Nursing Officer, Lt. Col. Perry C. Ruiz.
Japan representatives were Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, Yuji Kuroiwa; Mayor of Yokosuka City, Yuto Yoshida; and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) Hospital Yokosuka Commanding Officer, Rear Adm. Kinitoshi Inoue.
Several other organizations involved included assorted police department and fire bureaus; hospital, medical, and public agencies; government agencies comprised of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), JGSDF, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) units. Public and volunteer groups, schools and both the Japan Red Cross and the American Red Cross each participated as well.
Appearing like something out of a Hollywood film set, the scenario called for teams to battle against a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurring on the faults of the Miura Peninsula.
The exercise was divided into three phases, consisting of rescue and operation, medical care and medical assistance. Spectators, a combination of host nation citizens, officials and U.S. personnel, watched as participants performed rescue operations consisting of rescue and firefighting operations in a mid- to high-rise building, and the use of power saws to conduct home evacuations and disassembling cars which were staged to simulate the scene of an automobile accident.
Evacuated patients were then escorted to the triage tent staging areas where medical care units conducted post-treatment, per the patient's needs.
"Communication is critical at every stage and language barriers can be our worst enemy," said Phung. "I realized that this was especially important while we were receiving patients to triage and treat. When there was not a translator, we had a very hard time communicating medical terms to the other Japanese doctors or even triaging patients. Nevertheless, we were able to communicate enough to ensure patients would receive proper treatment based off of their needs."
Battling the elements added somewhat of a real-scenario feel for the exercise.
"As far as the weather conditions, this drill was a real challenge for us," said Dr. Yusuke Dodo, one of the six Japanese Fellows physicians currently conducting his internship at USNH Yokosuka. "However, who's to say that in a real-life scenario that the weather will be bright and sunny. The elements actually added adversity to the scene and forced us to be on our toes. Exercises such as this one need to continue to be held in order for us to properly prepare for what could possibly lie ahead for any of us at any given moments' notice."
Next year's exercise is tentatively scheduled to be held in Odawara City, Japan.
"I am sure that the drill for 2017 will be as big, if not bigger than this one," said Phung. "Participation is always an honor and further enhances relations with our Japanese neighbors while displaying USNH Yokosuka's capabilities. It should be a prideful thing for all of us who have participated and for those who will participate in the future."
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