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Airmen fend off simulated flu epidemic

Maj. Leah Ward and Airman First Class Marissa Ruiz, both assigned to the 103rd Medical Group, conduct door-to-door house calls for all Airmen who were confined to quarters during a public health exercise at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Ga., Jan. 7, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Maj. Bryon M. Turner)

Maj. Leah Ward and Airman First Class Marissa Ruiz, both assigned to the 103rd Medical Group, conduct door-to-door house calls for all Airmen who were confined to quarters during a public health exercise at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Ga., Jan. 7, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Maj. Bryon M. Turner)

Lt. Col. John Zolan, assigned to the 103rd Medical Group, assesses Senior Air-man Gabriel Cartagena, a food services Airman assigned to the 103rd Force Support Squadron, during a public health exercise conducted at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Ga., Jan. 5, 2015. Cartagena, a simulated flu patient, was complaining of flu-like symptoms as part of the exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

Lt. Col. John Zolan, assigned to the 103rd Medical Group, assesses Senior Air-man Gabriel Cartagena, a food services Airman assigned to the 103rd Force Support Squadron, during a public health exercise conducted at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Ga., Jan. 5, 2015. Cartagena, a simulated flu patient, was complaining of flu-like symptoms as part of the exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Erin McNamara)

SAVANNAH COMBAT READINESS TRAINING CENTER - Garden City, Ga. -- Airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing successfully completed a three-day public health exercise while deployed to the Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Georgia, Jan. 7, 2015.

The exercise put the Flying Yankees to the test with a simulated flu epidemic that required a robust medical response to work hand-in-hand with a complex accountability process.

"The exercise was a great learning opportunity for our new wing inspection team members," said Lt. Col. James Guerrera, inspector general for the 103rd Airlift Wing. "We also highlighted a number of strengths across the unit and areas where process improvements have already begun."

The first patient in the exercise was Airman First Class Gabriel Cartagena, an Airman assigned to the 103rd Force Support Squadron and works in the dining facility. Although his simulated illness turned out to be something unrelated, many casualties with the flu would follow.

"This exercise was a great experience for the medical group; it helped us to identify areas of improvement for the clinic and allowed our public health team, Senior Airman Duquette and Senior Airman Baker, to develop their skills," said Maj. Tara Hood, who served as the deployed medical staff's officer in charge.

As the scenario came to a crescendo, more than 25 Airmen became ill, all of whom were eventually confined to quarters, creating an accountability challenge for personnel assigned to the 103rd Force Support Squadron's personnel support for contingency operations team. PERSCO members successfully accomplished casualty reports for each of the sick Airmen, including some of their own.

Staff Sgt. Kayla Smith, assigned to the 103rd Force Support Squadron, was a victim of a simulated fire-ant attack which re-sulted in a severe allergic reaction. 1st Lt. Coleen Hitt, a member of the 103rd Medical Group, rushed across base on foot and administered lifesaving aid while a civilian ambulance rushed to the site. Smith would spend the next simulated 24 hours at a local hospital as she recovered.

"The clinical staff received good training for disease identifica-tion and disease management--they adapted to the stressors of being overwhelmed by causalities in a remote environment," said Hood. "It was an excellent experience for our junior staff and officers to take on new leadership roles."

Members of the 103rd Medical Group also conducted door-to-door house calls at lodging, providing critical medical aid as needed for the sick Airmen, including Cartagena.

"I felt good, it helped me know everyone is here to help all of us," said Cartagena. "If I really got sick, I'd want the same treatment."

Throughout the exercise, wing inspection team members captured detailed notes based on their observations; notes that will be entered into the inspector general evaluation management system to assist unit members in making positive changes to key processes.

"A formal IGEMS report will be created and corrective action plans will be required to achieve unit improvements moving forward," said Guerrera.