OLONGAPO, Philippines (NNS) -- U.S. Soldiers from the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion, assigned to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), trained Aug. 4-6 alongside Filipino first responders with the Olongapo City Urban Search and Rescue Team in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness seminar as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.
The three-day seminar consisted of classroom lectures about how to safely extract victims from damaged vehicles and hands-on training with emergency extrication tools and equipment.
"One of the major problems here are vehicular accidents. Sometimes they have accidents here that involve upwards of 60 people," said Army Capt. John Karlsson, a civil affairs team leader. "So, what we we're able to do over a process of five months is procure extrication equipment. We're now cross-training on how to use this equipment."
Through Operation Handclasp the civil affairs team was able to purchase extrication equipment to donate to the Filipino search and rescue team.
"We teamed with Operation Handclasp and were able to purchase equipment called the Hi-Lift jack. The Hi-Lift jack is basically a car jack on steroids," said Karlsson. "We we're able to go to a train-the-trainer program, so using a Hi-Lift, ratchet straps, and chains we're able to rip a car in half and save a lot of lives."
The jacks are capable of lifting almost 5,000 pounds, enabling first responders the ability to pop off doors, create window tents, lift steering columns, which makes it extremely suitable to urban search and rescue, said Staff Sgt. Michael Edmonds, a civil affairs team lead on vehicle extrication.
"This morning was the lecture portion, I gave a class on vehicular accident scene and how to use the Hi-Jack," said Edmonds. "The guys here are really the subject matter experts when it comes to vehicle extrication. I didn't have to give much of a class because these guys have been teaching me a lot of things."
After the lectures the team of Soldiers and members of the Olongapo City Urban Search and Rescue Team drove to a salvage yard to get hands-on experience using the donated equipment. The Filipino first responders also had a chance to demonstrate how to use the "jaws of life," which are hydraulically powered shears, to cut through a vehicle to remove a crash victim.
"In the afternoon, we got the chance to participate in simulations using the Hi-Lift on upside down vehicles and also normal positions of the vehicle," said Jeffrey Lapid, the officer in charge of the Olongapo City Search and Rescue Team. "After that, we had a demonstration with our friends in the U.S. Army using hydraulic equipment making an access point in the [vehicle] door."
Karlsson said the Filipinos were already well trained in search and rescue techniques, and the donation and training the Army civil affairs team provided allowed them to have one more tool at their disposal to save lives in an emergency.
"These guys go all around the Philippines instructing [others on] vehicle extrication. We were able to pick up their techniques, and give them equipment that makes them a lot more versatile and able to save a lot more lives," said Karlsson. "We've learned a lot from each other, and we've been able to provide them something that will directly help a lot of people."
Mercy is currently in the Philippines for its third mission port of PP15. Pacific Partnership is in its tenth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided real world medical care to approximately 270,00 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,999 animals. Additionally, the mission has provided critical infrastructure development to host nations through more than 180 engineering projects.