FORT PICKETT, Va. --
Gunnery Sgt. Brian Scamman doesn’t want his Marines to work.
His concern is not for the ability of his Marines, but for what calling the Massive Casualty team into action means.
“We are going to see some gruesome stuff. We are probably going to have to pick up body parts if we ever had to do this for real,” said the Mass Cass staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “If we do this for real that’s our brothers and sister that got hurt and they need help.”
Here, Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 24 sharpened a skill they hope to never use.
On an open field here, a Hollywood-style production company set the stage, complete with amputees playing the part of severely injured personnel during the 24th MEU’s aptly named Realistic Urban Training.
The first responders arrived by helicopter and walked into a minefield of medical emergencies.
“It’s organized chaos,” said Seaman Lavan Williams, corpsman, CLB-24. “It’s all hard; we all play a major role in (the Mass Cass). There is no hardest part, just a bunch of pieces to a puzzle and they all come together.”
Among the chaos, Marines and civilians lay sprawled about the area, showing stunningly visible signs of an improvised explosive device. “I don’t want to die,” screams one Marine with a massive head wound, as another desperately cries out, “where is my leg, what happened to my leg.”
Admittedly, the Marines and sailors had a double-take reaction to the professional make-up and the convincing manner in which the role players expressed their injuries, but a little blood is not going to scare away his troops, said Scamman.
Back in the eye of the storm, Williams hustles from bloodied service member to the next.
“You just let them know that you know they are hurt, but we are here for them,” he said. “You just have to get everybody calmed down and try and get everyone out of here in a timely fashion.”
True to his word, Williams and the rest of the battalion’s corpsman make the same promise to wounded warrior again and again. Sometimes it’s confidently explained to the injured Marines, “we are going to get you out of here.” Other times, it’s simply the tight grasping of hands, injured and medic, as the bloody Marines is taken off the battlefield and moved to an awaiting helicopter.
Amid the catastrophe, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Special Operations Training Group, corpsmen evaluators, made sure aid was provided quickly and correctly. By definition a massive casualty scenario involves more severely injured patients than available caregivers, explained Seaman Michael Price, corpsmen evaluator, SOTG.
“The biggest challenge to corpsmen is not getting wrapped up with one patient,” he explained. “They need to remember that there are many patients out there and they all need help.”
While SOTG has put the CLB-24 through other massive casualty scenarios before, this third exercise turned up the realism factor.
“With the company we have out here for the special effects, it gives them a real scenario, what they might see in real life,” he added.
Reflecting on the scenario, Scamman said he appreciated the extra stress from the role-players and make-up.
“It just adds to the intensity of the training,” he explained.
Then, pausing as if possibly recalling from his own experiences, he cautioned about the true extent of any such training.
“Even with the fake blood and the guys with no legs you are only going to be able to go up so far to demonstrate the real thing,” he added stoically. “The real thing is going to be the real thing. It is going to be chaotic. It’s going to be crazy there. There are going to be people screaming and thinking they are dying.”
If after concluding their upcoming deployment, Scamman’s Marines never fully understand what type of horrific events he is referring to, all the better.
“This is defiantly the one MEU mission we hopefully never do,” he said.