Volk Field’s Patriot 15 exercise combines civilian, military disaster training

About 1,500 National Guard members from 33 states are attending the four-day training

A unique training session is taking place at Volk Field in Camp Douglas this week.

Normally exercises on the military base involve only the military, but this one actually involves civilian emergency crews as well.

The National Guard responds to man-made disasters and natural disasters so they have to be ready for anything and everything at any time.

Volk Field is holding a mass casualty training event and it starts with a natural disaster where buildings have collapsed and people are trapped.

“Somebody help me,” said one of the disaster victims.

When lives are on the line seconds, even minutes, matter so when a natural disaster hits all hands are on deck.

From the National Guard to the Red Cross to the command center, everyone is working towards one common goal: to save lives and gain control of the situation.

“It’s a joint effort. We see the civilians as the ones in charge and we support them,” said Lt. Col. D.J. Spisso, Patriot exercise director.

But because each group has different skill sets and assets sometimes it can be hard to coordinate. That is where training exercises come in and they are proving more valuable than ever before.

“You don’t want to meet the people that you are going to work with when an incident happens so you want to practice how you play,” said Spisso.

Volk Field is hosting a disaster readiness exercise called “Patriot.” It allows local, state and national response teams to collaborate with one another in a real life setting, starting at the disaster site.

“We are having our people train in confine spaces to try to rescue survivors,” said Spisso.

From the disaster sight, the victims were transported to the e-med tent.

“We are simulating every wing of a hospital so we have an emergency room, triage unit and laboratory,” said Col. Brandon Isaacs, medical group commander.

Upon arrival, the victim is assessed and sent to the proper unit. As the medical staff works on the victim, family members may be looking for them so they are sent to the Red Cross to use the Safe and Well System.

“It’s a computer program where people come in from a disaster and can register on this computer program. Then their friends and family, anywhere in the country, can go in and find out where they are and how they are doing,” said Gene Wallis, with the Red Cross.

And while each individual group carries out its duties, the command center keeps track of it all.

“We are doing the coordination, providing intelligence info, coordinating and assigning assignments, taking priorities that come up and we are trying to think ahead for the next day and day after that,” said Steve Courtney, the incident team management commander.

Nothing seems to go as planned when a disaster happens, but those attending the exercise say the more training the better.

“So when a real incident happens, it almost becomes second nature,” said Courtney.

One-thousand-five-hundred National Guard members from 33 states, as well as, local civilian emergency personnel are attending the training, and will be at Volk Field for the entire four-day exercise.

Once the training exercise is done, those involved will collaborate about the experience to make sure the best possible procedures are at the top of the list for when the unexpected happens.