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Making up an exercise

By Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | May 10, 2019


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Stitzer, a military policeman with the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Provost Marshal’s Office, reported in for duty as he does every day. While making his rounds, he receives the call from dispatch. Most directly, Cpl. Stitzer proceeds to the location of the incident. Upon arrival, he hears and sees victims in pain and gravely injured. He and his partner enter a building knowing that the situation is still unfolding. After careful navigation through the structure, the team detains two suspects, and that was just the start of the problem.

In the aftermath of the situation, over a dozen casualties require immediate assistance. Although Cpl. Stitzer is not a fully-licensed paramedic; he is trained to assess the wounded, apply tourniquets and prepare victims for a medical evacuation. While an average person would be fearful, this military policeman knows emergencies like this because of frequent and realistic training.

The active shooter scenario Cpl. Stitzer experienced was part of an annual training event known as Exercise Semper Durus. Semper Durus is a regional command and control exercise that creates simulated crises to test response procedures and develop techniques to limit negative impacts during a real-world emergency.

To create scenarios for field portions of exercises like Semper Durus and many others, planners attempt to make training as realistic as possible, and that includes what participants see and hear. Simulation operations specialists are government contracted employees that apply cosmetics to role-playing victims during exercises to familiarize Marines with injuries encountered in real life. The team takes pride in creating Hollywood level effects to support the mission.

“Notional training isn't valued as much,” said Chad Clawson, simulation operations specialist, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. “Creating the realistic effect makes everyone take it more serious.

The team recreates wounds resulting from shrapnel, compound fractures, sucking chest wounds, amputations, bullet entry and exit and a multitude of different lacerations. The team also has a "cut suit" that a role player wears and contains a human's full anatomy.

“Cut suits allow training to go from the initial scene to the operating room,” said Dana Morrison, simulation operations specialist, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. “Our operating room staff can practice their surgical procedures without causing injury to live tissue.”

Getting the training that instills real emotions by witnessing these wounds in an exercise gives commanders the ability to train with proper response and action regardless of the environment.

“Even though we aren't active duty anymore, we are still giving back to the military,” added Clawson. “We pass on knowledge from our past by creating these effects to help support the future.”


Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit.
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