EUGENE, Ore. -- Spectators gathered on 18th avenue Wednesday morning to watch as two Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters landed, loaded, and left the grassy soccer field east of the University of Oregon’s Howe field.
The exercise was part of the regional training for Vigilant Guard, an inter-agency drill exercise as part of the greater Ardent Sentry exercise. Around 200 support personnel, including the Eugene and Springfield fire departments, National Guard soldiers from the 2/162 infantry regiment and various civilian EMS units joined in evacuating mock casualties from the UO’s Student Recreation Center.
Casualties were tagged with cards indicating their priority of evacuation, ranging from delayed patients that with non-critical injuries to expectant patients that were unlikely to recover. The casualties were staged outside the student recreation center and evacuated on a variety of spinal immobilization boards and wheeled vehicles.
The evacuation route led them to Howe field where two UH-60 black hawk helicopters picked up three casualties each and evacuated them to the Eugene airport. Emergency medical crews loaded less urgent patients into ambulances.
The “casualties” met at 9 Wednesday morning; waiting, talking together. When the exercise began, they immediately switched gears and cried out in pain to the fire fighters rescuing them. One Sergeant, playing a distraught patient in shock, ran away from her rescuers and called for her mother and father.
“It’s OK,” said the fireman, “They’ll be at the helicopter.”
While many of the soldiers relished the chance to play disoriented and frightened patients, others looked forward to getting the black tag of an expectant.
“It’s nice be an unconscious or dead patient,” said one soldier, “because you can just kick back and sleep for the exercise.”
The Vigilant Guard training continued after noon, with evacuations planned from Alton Baker Park to the Eugene Airport.