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Troops at Whiteman Air Force Base test response to mass casualty incident

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WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. -- Recent shootings on military bases have prompted soldiers to better prepare for threats posed by an active shooter. Troops at Whiteman Air Force Base on Wednesday tested their response to a mass casualty incident.

Somewhere inside a medical clinic at the base, security forces searched for an active shooter. Unlike other training exercises staged by state or city agencies, in this training, first responders must sort out the injured from the dead by evaluating wounds that seem almost too real.

"I use Google images to have an idea of what a bullet wound in the hand, what that would look like," said Staff Sgt. Amanda Richardson, who created the simulated wounds on the casualties. "It's kind of surprisingly not the cartoon version of a hole in the hand. It's more like mangled blood on both sides. You wouldn't see the hole until an X-ray."

In a mass casualty exercise like this one, chaos is essential to making it seem real.

Watching everything in this training are controllers, who judge the response of security forces to the threat and grade how medical workers treat the wounded. When soldiers lifted a man on a stretcher without strapping him down, an evaluator stopped the troops and corrected the mistake.

"Exercises are meant to be a learning experience," said James Esarey, medical readiness manager for the 509th medical group. "It's a teaching tool, but instead of just doing it in a classroom setting or a small hands-on setting, to where in a training situation where they do all this stuff. They are highly skilled, highly trained, ready to respond."

The goal is to make sure everyone on the base knows what to do and how best to react if they ever hear gunfire. A medical center is considered a soft target and troops know that how they respond can limit damages caused in an attack.

The base conducts mass casualty training about once every three months, to keep proper responses fresh in the minds of those serving there.