AFMES participates in Operation Joint Recovery, introduces MACRMS

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo
  • Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Public Affairs
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.
“This was a great opportunity for our AFMES staff to share their knowledge of MACRMS with different services as well as local and national agencies,” said U.S. Army Col. Louis N. Finelli, AFMES director. “MACRMS was developed to act as a stop gap to a relativity new scenario, recovery of contaminated remains.”
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.
“Most people don’t know how U.S. service member causalities are recovered in foreign conflicts overseas or stateside,” said Jairo E. Portalatin, AFMES, medicolegal death investigator. “It can be a very sensitive process but we owe it to our service members to train and get it right.”
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.”
Finelli said that integration of multiple organizations in a joint environment is a key focus of these types of exercises.
“By conducting these exercises, we hope to introduce to our service members the experience and training needed to support worldwide contingency operations and disaster response operations.”