By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Lewis
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific
CALAYAN ISLAND, Philippines, May 17, 2017 — First responders can't wait for disaster to strike to decide what they need to do. They must always train for the worst of situations so they are prepared when the need arises.
The Hawaii National Guard and Charlie Company of the 448th Civil Affairs Battalion trained alongside Philippine soldiers yesterday in a training exercise to prepare for disasters and crises on Calayan Island in the Philippine province of Cagayan.
As part of Exercise Balikatan 2017, active duty and reserve Philippine service members, Hawaii National Guard soldiers, Calayan Fire Department members and eager citizen volunteers participated in a simulated mass-casualty exercise.
U.S. and Philippine service members and civilian first responders put weeks of training into action with a simulated medical evacuation for a downed pilot as a culminating event for the exercise.
“Everyone did excellent, -- they’ve worked hard for the last two weeks in three locations in the country,” said U.S. Army Capt. Rob McQueen, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion civil affairs officer.
For some members of the exercise, despite just meeting a few weeks ago, the bonds built through training are starting to help day-to-day operations and communication between the two partner militaries.
“This is my first mission with the Philippine army, and it has been great,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Courtney Lindsay of the Hawaii Guard. “Since we’ve touched down, they’ve been very kind and generous. I just only image our relationship getting stronger.”
The exercise, which focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, started with the recovery of an injured pilot hoisted up to a medical UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, followed by collecting and caring for 20 injured civilians. This required the participants to learn how to triage and act with speed to get the role-player victims out of the danger zone with the use of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
Each group brought a different perspective and skill set to the combined training event, which enabled all participating forces to learn different skills and new ways of thinking to address mass casualty events.
“Building friends, working together, and sharing resources have been the best thing that I have gotten from all of this,” Lindsay said.