CLINTON, N.C. — Accidents can happen at anytime without notice. No one knows when, where, or how, but it is up to first responders and rescue teams to ensure they are always ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
In a training scenario, a plane scheduled to arrive at Clinton-Sampson County Airport is declared late in the early morning of Nov. 12. Details unveil that the plane has crashed near a farm field and has erupted in flames. The report also indicates that the pilot ejected and is stuck in a tree, hanging on for dear life.
Working hand-in-hand, Soldiers from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate and key personnel from the Fort Bragg Emergency Operations Center, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Civil Air Patrol of N.C. State Department of Public Safety and Sampson County Emergency Medical Service worked together to conduct an aviation accident response scenario.
“The scenario was based off a call that a T34 (trainer) aircraft didn’t arrive to Clinton-Sampson County Airport,” said Col. Mark Edmonds, director of ABNSOTD. “We then call Fort Bragg EOC, they coordinate with the N.C. EMS and then notify the Civil Air Patrol. The Civil Air Patrol launches a ground patrol to identify the site and then the local authorities are notified to arrive.”
This scenario was the first of its kind between Soldiers and the community of Sampson County, said Staff Sgt. Michael English, medic and safety non commissioned officer in charge, ABNSOTD.
“The purpose for this exercise was primarily to build our relationships with the different organizations,” said English.
English said they decided to go all out this year and set up the scenario near Clinton-Sampson County Airport since the test parachutists from his unit conduct multiple tests and missions at Clinton Drop Zone.
“This is realistic,” said Edmonds. “We wanted to develop a scenario that was away from Fort Bragg and Pope Field. The location came about because we jump here and the flight routes go through Sampson County. It allows us to work with Sampson County EMS, which is likely who we would be working with.”
Firefighters from Herring Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Clement Fire Department and Sampson Country EMS key personnel worked to simultaneously extinguish the fire and rescue the unconscious pilot stuck in the tree.
Some of the challenges faced from the scenario included the density of the wooded area and trying to get the victim in and out, said Erick Herring, EMS Division chief of Sampson County.
“We are in a swampy area, so it’s fairly muddy,” Herring said. “The circumstances that we’re having to work in are not going to be that uncommon. With the knee deep mud and bushes in the way of trying to get the victim out … it wasn’t as easily accessible, but easily realistic.”
With successfully accomplishing the mission, both Soldiers and civilians gained new knowledge and experience from the scenario, said the participants.
“Should something ever happen, we have our aviation accident response plan,” said Edmonds, “but if we don’t rehearse the plan, we won’t know how effective it is until something actually happens. Anything we can do to simulate something actually happening, that’s the best you can do to valid our plan.”
“We had a lot of people involved and we got some good training out of it,” said English. “There is actually a relationship now, so if something like this actually happened, we and Sampson County know what to do as far as coordinating a plan to accomplish.”
“Everything went excellent,” said Herring, “we identified some areas that we can work and improve on and the need to do some of the same type of training. I can see us continuing with the same type of training with Fort Bragg in the future.”