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102nd Medical Group Airmen showcase capabilities to family

Members of Detachment 1, 102nd Medical Group, Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass. prepare for a demonstration. Family and friends of the 102nd MG were invited to participate as patients in the mock exercise, which aims to showcase what Airmen do in a disaster response.

Story by Airman 1st Class Junhao Yu
102nd Intelligence Wing Public Affairs

It was a scene of chaos. Airmen were evacuating patients from the red zone to the decontamination areas. Medics were preparing for a large influx of patients.

This however, was not a real hazardous materials exposure-response.

Airmen from Detachment 1, 102nd Medical Group, from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. invited their family and friends to experience a day in the life of an expeditionary Airman through a showcase exhibition at Camp Curtis Guild in Reading, Mass. on Aug. 26, 2018.

“A lot of people don’t understand what we do,” said Lt. Col. Bob Driscoll, Commander of Det. 1. “They think we are just a clinic down at Otis instead of a real field unit who respond to natural disasters. We are tasked with utilizing federal assets to protect the homeland during times of emergency and much more.”

During the day of the exhibition at Camp Curtis Guild, Airmen from Det. 1 stood up a fully functional field medical tent, where volunteers from their family were placed in stretchers and hooked up with machines that monitor their vital signs to experience a simulated disaster response.

Driscoll explained that the tents were capable of handling multiple trauma patients with life-threatening injuries.

“When we set up a tent it usually includes multiple doctors,” said Driscoll. “Respiratory therapists, pharmacists, nurses, and medical technicians. They all working together at the same time. Each tent can handle 8 beds in total with full capabilities like any other emergency rooms.”

While the trained Airmen are all dedicated medical professionals ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, it is hard to explain to their family exactly what they do in the field according to Driscoll.

“This entire thing is Capt. Foster’s brainchild,” said Driscoll. “He came up with the idea that we should let our family see what we do when we are away for work.”
“The plan was to educate the children,” said Capt. Keith Foster, the Critical Care Nurse assigned to Det. 1. “I want the kids to know what we do when we go away and the best way to do it is through a tactile experience where they can touch and feel how our equipment works.”

“I’ve been in the Air Force for almost 25 years,” said Foster. “When anyone finds out that I’m in the Air Force they would ask if I fly a plane; while being a pilot is a wonderful career I am proud to be a critical care nurse in the Air Force serving the National Guard.”

Foster enlisted in the military at age 19 as a communication specialist, he said. He eventually worked his way towards a nursing degree and obtained a commission as an officer. Foster had been practicing as a registered nurse for nine years.

While Foster talks about his journey with the military, family and friends of Det. 1 were all enjoying a day of sunshine and food in the back.

Volunteers provided home-cooked food and ice-cold soft drinks for everyone at the camp. Some Airmen dressed up in full hazardous material protective gear to run with children through water sprinklers meant to simulate decontamination procedures. The red zone where there’s been a suspected chemical exposure incident was a red inflatable bounce shaped like a castle with slide.

“The best way to learn is to be hands-on,” said Foster. “I think I can tell my children all day long what I do but a tactile experience like this is better than any explaining I do. It might inspire them to serve in the military or join the medical profession when they grow up, perhaps even both.”

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