NEWS | Sept. 28, 2021

Task Force Koa Moana 21 Participates in Palau's Disaster Preparedness Month

By Sgt. Marvin Lopeznavarro I Marine Expeditionary Force

AIRAI, Palau -- Marines & Sailors with Task Force Koa Moana 21, I Marine Expeditionary Force, partnered with Civic Action Team Palau 36-05 and Palauan first responders to participate in a full-scale mass casualty exercise at the Palau International Airport in Airai, Republic of Palau, 15-18 Sept., 2021.

The simulated casualties were soaked with rain that continued to pour throughout the exercise.  However, that did not stop the task force medical staff and Palauan first responders from preforming at the highest level. These medical professionals knew there was little room for error when responding to a mass casualty and understood the importance of this exercises.

“The purpose of this mass casualty exercise is to test Palau’s emergency response capabilities,” said Dwayne Masami, the chief for the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Station. “The airport cannot receive international flights unless we demonstrates that we are equipped to handle any potential aircraft emergencies and meet certain safety requirements.”

The scenario for this exercise was a commercial aircraft that suffered damage from a bird strike. The aircraft was forced to perform an emergency landing, which caused damage to its wing and the aircraft to skid on its side across the runway. Multiple emergency response organizations participated in the exercise due to the severity and scale of the scenario.

“They worked really well as a team,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Pamela R. Rakoski, the lead medical officer for Task Force Koa Moana 21, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “When it was show time, they didn’t hesitate to jump into action and get the job done.”

The Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Station and city fire department members were in charge of fire suppression and transporting the role players from the crash site to the decontamination area, where a hazmat team from the Environmental Quality Protection Board carried the simulated casualties through a decontamination shower and to the triage area.

The triage area was staffed by nurses from the Belau National Hospital as well as trained emergency medical technicians from the City Fire Department, and Civic Action Team Palau 36-05. After the casualties were stabilized, they were transported to the Belau National Hospital to receive the next level of medical care.

“One of the main focus points for this mass casualty exercise was testing out the triage and casualty assessment capabilities of the first responders,” said Rakoski. “The exercise also tested the hospital’s ability to receive a surge of patients, re-triage and re-prioritize them.”

The Task Force Koa Moana medical staff participated in the training exercise as observers. They were tasked with evaluating the first responders while they rendered aid to the casualties. This allowed them to help identify what part of the triage process could be modified or improved. The task force also provided communication specialist Marines to help evaluate the implementation and use of their communication systems during the scenario.

“This was a great opportunity to help strengthen the relationship that Task Force Koa Moana has with the people of Palau, and it also helped improve their crises response capabilities” said Rakoski.

Task Force Koa Moana is designed to strengthen and enhance relationships between the U.S. and partner nations/states in the Indo-Pacific Region while remaining COVID-19 safe. The task force has the unique opportunity and privilege of working with the Republic of Palau as a sign of the U.S. commitment to the people of Palau and its partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific Region.