Originally created 05/19/00

Exercise targets training

As she lay on the scorching hot pavement, Sgt. Denise Haughton moaned, pleading for help.

Only a few minutes before, Sgt. Haughton had heard an explosion behind her, then felt shrapnel gouge a 15-centimeter wound from her right buttock down the back of her thigh.

Near her lay other victims of the blast at one of the gasoline stations on Lane Avenue at Fort Gordon. Some victims were dead, while others were trapped beneath the rubble.

Sgt. Haughton, who would later joke about her "butt wound" with fake blood and all, was part of a simulated exercise Thursday at Fort Gordon and other areas of Augusta.

Consequence Management Exercise 2000, which continues through Saturday, is a joint effort among local, state, military and federal departments, including Army Reserves, active-duty military at Fort Gordon, the Defense Department, Augusta's Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, and federal and state emergency management agencies in Georgia and Alabama.

"This is the biggest event to happen in the history of this sort of thing," Maj. John Brown said.

Emergency managers from 20 states are participating in the exercise along with dignitaries from Australia and Canada, said Col. Chip Giddens, co-director for the exercise.

One reason to stage such an event, which includes more than 1,500 people, is "to train civilian agencies and response teams with casualties and weapons," he said.

Throughout Thursday, events such as simulated bombings at the base's gas station, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and Fort Gordon's Gate 5 resulted in numerous pretend casualties.

The drill started at 10 a.m. with a simulated bombing at the Uptown Division of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers off Wrightsboro Road.

Stand-ins for the president and vice president were visiting the hospital and were whisked away before decontamination crews tended to victims lying on the ground around the mock bomb site.

Hazardous-materials workers from the Richmond County Fire Department and the Army Reserve, dressed in safety suits, carried heavily injured patients to a nearby decontamination tent, where they were washed from head to toe.

The hypothetical explosion at the hospital released VX gas, a nerve agent that causes foaming at the mouth and massive seizures.

After being washed, the victims' conditions were assessed by medical personnel outside the tent. Then they were taken to area hospitals by ambulance.

Medical College of Georgia, Doctors Hospital and the VA received patients from the first blast.

Some patients were treated at the 73rd Field Hospital, and others went to Eisenhower. Some were transported by the Air Force to veterans hospitals in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala.

Other secondary incidents in the exercise will occur in the next two days, Col. Giddens said.

Staff Writer Mark Mathis contributed to this article.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.


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