by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/7/2015 - CAMP RILEA, Ore. -- More
than 250 participants from U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Air Force
Reserve, Army and Air National Guard units, civilian organizations, and
state and county agencies took part in Pathfinder-Minutemen exercise
here, Aug. 5.
Pathfinder-Minutemen was a joint multi-agency, multi-state exercise
based on response exercise designed to replicate a post-earthquake and
subsequent tsunami environment with casualties in need of immediate
Military members worked side-by-side with their civilian counterparts in
12-member teams, accomplishing two scenarios during the day to find and
rescue simulated causalities and provide immediate medical care and
The teams were organized to have a variety of skills in each group, to
include specialists in search and rescue, medicine and other key first
As the exercise began, participants explored various designated training
areas on Camp Rilea including Slusher Lake, a mock village known
as Military Operations in Urban Terrain or MOUT site, and a large
purpose-built rubble pile designed to simulate a collapsed structure.
A key aspect of the training was ascertaining a common language between
team members while integrating skill sets during the search and recovery
Overseeing rescue operations from the joint operations center, Lt. Col.
John Graver, 304th Rescue Squadron commander, said that working with
others in a training environment not only helps focus resources but also
enhances communication abilities.
"When a disaster strikes, no one group or agency can do it all," he
said. "So why wait until game day? In these events we are learning a
common language between group members while building relationships and
incorporating vital skills sets."
As the exercise unfolded, three separate scenarios began to unfold. The
first involved a water rescue and drowning victim recovery in Slusher
Lake. An air crew with the U.S. Coast Guard's Air Station Astoria
assisted with hoist operations using a HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, while
members of the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics
Squadron provided the water recovery and search teams on the ground.
The second scenario focused on house to house searches for injured
victims at the MOUT Site, while the third training scenario involved
teams locating and rescuing victims trapped in vehicles and simulated
collapsed buildings at the rubble pile.
"The fortunate part of doing a morning and afternoon exercise is that we
can learn from the mistakes from the first half and in the second half
play a little better," said Graver.
Working in concert with the military was the Oregon Disaster Medical
Team, led by Dr. Jon Jiu, a professor at the Oregon Health Science
University in Portland.
Jiu described how he joined the ODMT in 2000 when his friend, Dr. Helen
Miller, 'twisted his arm' to join. "Nine months later 9/11 happened," he
Officials believe the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a magnitude 7.0
or greater earthquake, due to the Cascadia Subduction Zone--an area that
extends along the Pacific coastline from California to Vancouver,
British Columbia. Staying prepared is never too far from Jiu's mind even
in light of recent media reports of a devastating earthquake for the
"We have been focused on this training for over five years so it is not
like we are just now beginning the process," Jiu said. "But yes, having
the public being aware of the hazards as well."
Jiu said in the past several years these exercises continue to grow and
become more complicated as areas to improve and shortcomings are
identified and built into subsequent training scenarios.
"This is a full-scale exercise from start to finish and requires both
the military and civilians to do the job," Jiu said. "Certainly having
the military with search and rescue capabilities and air evacuation
assets are critical to having our doctors and medical teams treat the
Jiu echoed Graver's assessments about the training for
Pathfinder-Minuteman 2015and emphasized how communication is the common
"Honestly understanding each other's capabilities and the abilities on
how to work together is the most important aspect of this type of
training," he said.
Many live in the local area and would be susceptible to the hazards of a tsunami following a major earthquake.
Corinne Bechet from Manzanita, Oregon, played the role of a diabetic
patient who had missed two dialysis treatments and was suffering
weakness. Later on that day, she role-played someone who had suffered
burns from a house fire. Having done this training over the past three
years, she said she understands the importance to the overall objective.
"It's very important to know what to do because we live in an earthquake
place. I already have a bag ready to go at home," she said.
Knowing the risks, Bechet weighs the pros and the cons of living in a tsunami zone.
"The beach is my medicine, I run every morning with my dogs," she said.
"I am more and more prepared, and the more training and awareness allows
me to feel at ease with nature's uncertainty."
Previously a caregiver and medical provider, the roles were reversed for
Oregon Air National Guard Senior Airman Melinda Duran, who is amedic
with the 173rd Fighter Wing's Medical Group. She said reversing her role
as casualty victim gave her a renewed understanding what a patient
would experience in a natural catastrophe.
"I guess I did not realize how complicated it was to get someone out of a
fallen building," Duran said. "It took six people to drag me on a skid
through a series of holes. Now I know that the things a patient will
experience by the things that hurt me in the extrication process."
Duran begins medical school soon but will continue to participate in
this type of training and hopes to draw upon the experience from these
exercises. She sees the benefits for all parties to constantly improve
understanding, efficiency and readiness.
"Communication is huge. It was the biggest issue today especially across
the different services with civilian and military. It probably was my
biggest takeaway from the training," she said.
Testing the steps that it took to find, recover and move patients put
into play all of the preparation that Graver and Jiu established before
this year's exercise.
"Victims were found, teams were sent to triage to treat them, they were
flown on hypothetical helicopters [pickup trucks] all the way to
casualty collection points," said Graver. "We accomplish all of that in
"We are trying to standardize the information flow so we can do the
'best for the most' when we find victims in these situations," Graver
Graver said the learning will continue even after the last tents and
radios are packed up. All participants received packets during the start
of the exercise, and are encouraged to share their experiences and
feedback, which will be used in future training exercises.
"The last page of the packets is an after action report," Graver said.
"They can give us their thoughts and offer other vital information so we
can regenerate substantial knowledge going forward."