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Marines attending the Methods of Entry School, a course that is considered high-risk by Headquarters Marine Corps, conduct an emergency drill at night on Dec. 18. The drill involved a simulated breaching operation gone wrong, with resultant simulated injuries.

Photo by Eve A. Baker

Safety behind Methods of Entry School exercise

2 Jan 2015 | John Hollis Marine Corps Base Quantico

The eerie quiet of the pitch dark had given way to the deafening sounds of explosives when the first cries for help could be heard at the Goettge Demolition Range.

It wasn’t real, but the Marines poised to graduate from the Methods of Entry School the following day were pretending as much during the school’s annual Emergency Response Exercise on the night of Dec. 18. Designed to prepare for any number of worst-case scenarios following a violent door breach, the simulation showcased emergency procedures in the event of any blast-related injuries such as amputation, shock, puncture wounds and extreme blood loss.

The drill, which is annually mandated for MOES due to the school’s high-risk training nature, required a cohesive emergency plan that worked in unison with local emergency first responders. Stabilizing the wounded at the scene was a start, but making sure they were quickly evacuated to a nearby medical facility for the serious medical care they required was equally as critical.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy H. Buckles, officer in charge, Methods of Entry School, was thrilled to see strong efforts in both categories, resulting in a decrease of roughly 50 critical minutes from the time of the injury to when the patient is in the hands of proper medical professionals.

 “It was an incredible success,” he said. “We cut our response time by 50 percent because of changes in our communication plan. Everything showed up a lot faster, everything went a lot cleaner because communication was outstanding. I’m very pleased.”

Sixteen Marine students joined instructors and staff in the exercise, assuming various roles with each of the injured showcasing wounds that appeared authentic. A Navy corpsman was there to assume control of triage and to prioritize the removal of the most seriously wounded.

They worked together seamlessly to properly treat the wounded before assuring their hasty arrival at a nearby medical facility. A phalanx of local fire and rescue crews from Quantico and Stafford County soon arrived on scene following the simulation’s start, followed by the arrival of a Manassas-based medical helicopter ready to transport the wounded.

Buckles credited MOE’s direct contact with 911 as the difference in the improved performance from a year ago.

“The communication works so much better now,” Buckles said.

Among the medical personnel on hand to gauge medical treatment were Navy Capt. Gordon R. Smith, commanding officer, Naval Health Clinic Quantico, and Navy Capt. Robert A. Alonso, executive officer, Naval Health Clinic Quantico.

The value of the real-time simulation especially hits home at MOES, given a 2009 training incident at the Goettge Demolition Range that resulted in the wounding of four Marines, at least one critically. Safety is always paramount, but being ready in the unlikely event of another such incident is only prudent, Buckles said.

Safety is just what Col. Timothy M. Parker, commanding officer, Weapons Training Battalion, had in mind when he commended the entire group of Marines and civilian emergency responders alike at the end of the night for their collaborative effortts in an exercise that included “lots of assets from across base.”

“The guys that take this course after you, maybe they’re going to live because of this,” he said.

Established in 1986, the Methods of Entry School is a three-week course that teaches Marines assigned to Reconnaissance Battalion, Recapture Tactics Teams, Special Reaction Teams and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams the finer points about successfully breaching doors, windows, walls and other fixtures of man-made structures. The five types of breaches studied included manual, mechanical, thermal, ballistic and explosive entries.

MOES runs eight classes per year, with each class consisting of anywhere from 14-16 students, Buckles said.

Writer: jhollis@quanticosentryonline.com