GREGG KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Air Guard Master Sgt. Kurt Uchimura, left, gives Col. Richard Ando Jr. and Bill Richter, a registered nurse with Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team, a pre-flight briefing at Hickam Air Force Base before leaving for Arizona.
Isle Guard joins terror casualty drill in Arizona
PHOENIX » Nearly 100 members of the Hawaii Air National Guard have traveled to central Arizona's desert to participate in exercises that will simulate large-scale terrorist attacks -- and test their readiness to care for high numbers of victims.
Hawaii is one of nine states participating this week in the "Coyote Crisis Campaign" in Scottsdale. It is here that teams will test their response against mock terrorist strikes targeting communities in Nevada and Arizona and involving casualties, blackouts and contamination -- including the possibility of radiation and deadly sarin nerve gas, in the air and water.
The exercise is expected to be closely monitored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, defense and military planners from the Pentagon.
The chief players are Arizona's Army and Air National Guard, the city of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Healthcare medical centers and General Dynamics. Scottsdale Healthcare officials will use the exercise to test their extensive decontamination facilities.
Hawaii's involvement includes 60 members of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Medical Group, commanded by Col. Brett Wyrick, a Hilo trauma surgeon; and a C-17 Globemaster cargo jet crewed by the three pilots and three loadmasters from the Hawaii Air Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron.
Col. Richard Ando Jr., the Hawaii Air Guard's air surgeon, said the state joined the exercise last August, in part to meet FEMA requirements for readiness to these types of emergencies.
However, Ando said there is a greater need to develop a civilian-military medical partnership in Hawaii that could be triggered during any man-made or natural emergencies.
"Our planning conferences were being held last year just as Hurricane Katrina hit," said Ando, allergist when he is not serving with the Guard. "Katrina showed us the many disconnects. People weren't talking to each other to coordinate services."
So he asked officials from the Queen's Medical Center to observe the exercise because of Scottsdale Healthcare's reputation as a premier military-civilian training institution.
"On the mainland, Scottsdale Hospital offers trauma training for the military," Ando said. "We don't get much of that in Hawaii."
"It is our hope that Queen's might be willing to develop similar trauma training programs so we can receive training similar to what is being offered at Scottsdale."
Sally Jones, Queen's trauma coordinator, likes the idea.
"I am pretty anxious to see how it works," she said.
Hawaii participants are hoping for valuable lessons in Scottsdale.
Bill Richter, a registered nurse with the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team, wants "to learn from the mistakes others might make.
"Our goal is to provide the best relief system possible," said Richter, whose group is part of the federal Homeland Security Department.
The exercise also will give the Hawaii Guard's 154th Medical Group an opportunity to test the capabilities of its mobile decontamination unit -- especially its ability to decontaminate large numbers of people exposed to biological attacks on site.
"It's basically a scaled-down medical decontamination unit ... that's able to decontaminate patients, triage and stabilize them so they can be accepted at a civilian hospital," Ando said.