U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Platt (right), Armed Forces Medical Examiner System forensic pathologist, demonstrates an examination at a simulated Mortuary Affairs Contaminated Remains Mitigation Site during Operation Joint Recovery exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Mar. 10, 2018. Platt familiarized participants in recovery and processing of contaminated remains. (Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — More than 200 active duty and reserve service members from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines along with personnel from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System participated in Operation Joint Recovery held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, March 7-10, 2018.
The Department of Defense Mortuary Affairs exercise involved search and recovery missions in tactical and non-tactical environments, operating a Mortuary Affairs Contaminated Remains Mitigation Site, establishing and operating a Mortuary Affairs Collection Point, establishing and operating a Theater Mortuary Evacuation Point.
AFMES primary role in the exercise was to operate MACRMS and familiarize participants in contaminated remains recovery, processing and procedural guidance and provide an operational assessment.
Contaminated remains are causalities from a possible Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive attack.
Finelli said that the gap of not being able to return contaminated remains was first introduced during the first years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the idea of a MACRMS has evolved over the past 2-3 years as technology and procedures are constantly evolving.
“In the past two years, we have made tremendous strides in the MACRMS process, but we are always examining for ways to improve the mission of bringing our troops home,” said Finelli.
Participants had to put these strides to the test during the exercise as members were subjected to a simulated CBRNE attack and had to utilize techniques, tactics and procedures developed by the Joint Mortuary Affairs Center.
Application of protective suits, gloves, breathing filtration apparatuses, wireless cameras, and the use of drones were all utilized for safety and security during the simulated recovery of service members.
“It was definitely a teaching experience, for most, it was their first time seeing a MACRMS in the field,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Platt, AFMES, forensic pathologist. “I tried to demonstrate what they would encounter during a real-world scenario.”
AFMES also provided Medical Examiners, Investigators and Mortuary Affairs Specialists to the exercise.
According to Mike Leone, AFMES, safety, environmental and occupational health manager, who acted as the exercise incident commander, said in addition to the MACRMS, scenarios also included a downed aircraft, a tornado disaster as well as combat search and recovery missions.
In each case, participants had to locate, recover and process simulated human remains, sometimes weighing more than 200 lbs.
“These exercises and training scenarios are extremely beneficial for us,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Keith A. Norman, Detachment Personnel Retrieval and Processing Company Combat Logistics Regiment 45, logistics chief. “For some of our younger Marines, it’s the first time they’ve worked in a joint environment.”
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