Just a step or two inside the first tent in a connected series of tents, Private 1st Class Rakiya Lyons and Specialist Benjamin Footman represented the first step toward safety for any potential “casualties” in the emergency medical response to a simulated nuclear attack against an American town in a large-scale exercise led by the Michigan National Guard.
Lyons and Footman were working inside the “decon” tent, a ways away from an explosion site where “terrorists” detonated a radioactive “dirty bomb” in Arctic Eagle 2016, a response exercise conducted at locations across northern Michigan.
The two Soldiers, both members of the 438th Chemical Company of the Indiana National Guard, were among the 1100 Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and members of the Home Guard of Denmark who participated in the exercise.
“This is really my first time seeing it all come together like this,” said Lyons, who completed her military basic training and advanced individual training as an engine mechanic just some six months ago.
“Seeing how it all really comes together, seeing how the parts of the team all work together – it’s really something,” Lyons said.
Typically, Lyons would be called on to serve as an engine mechanic. In this exercise, she was directed to work with Footman, a chemical response specialist, at a station along the decontamination process. Injured people would be brought to the tent for initial decontamination and medical attention. Across town, at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital, hospital employees were working closely with the National Guard to provide a second decontamination site, just outside the hospital’s emergency department.
“This opportunity to connect with Munson Grayling strengthens all parties,” said Major Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general of Michigan. “In the event of a man-made disaster like this – and you just have to turn on the news to see what is going on in the world – this type of exercise allows us to build on and grow these partnerships.”
At the initial decon station, on Camp Graying Joint Maneuver Training Center, where the main portion of the exercise was located, Footman and Lyons were just an early step in providing emergency medical care to those injured in such a terrorist act. This particular exercise added the extra challenge of operating in a below-freezing, snowy environment. The day the decon tents were set up, more than 5 inches of snow fell.
“That’s what it is all about,” said Footman, who has been serving as a chemical response specialist in the Indiana National Guard for about three years. “You learn all this and you do these exercises so that you are ready to help people out and to save lives.”
Arctic Eagle 16 is a National Guard led, joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational exercise based on the President of the United States, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, state of Alaska and international partners’ Arctic strategies. It is conducted in live and constructive environments, focused on humanitarian assistance, consequence management and infrastructure protection.