See big military plane in Upstate? Disaster drill at GSP Airport

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GREER, SC (WSPA) – A full-scale disaster training exercise at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) Wednesday brought together emergency and disaster teams with federal, state, and local agencies.

A GSP spokesperson says the exercise dubbed “Operation: Wings of Hope” simulates a disaster in another part of the U.S. in which local hospitals can’t take any more patients.

The patients would be transported by air to GSP for triage and sent to partner hospitals in the area.

It’s a simulated response request for medical evacuation support that includes multiple agencies and volunteer teams to evaluate the method of treatment, tracking and transportation of patients.

The National Disaster Medical System – Federal Coordinating Center based in Columbia coordinates the training and operation. 

GSP welcomed a military C-17 Globemaster III to the tarmac to help with the simulation.

Lt. Col. Richard Patton, Commander of the 2nd Brigade with the S.C. State Guard, knows what it takes to prepare for the transport of the wounded from the tarmac to a triage tent.

“We need guys who know what they’re doing, are familiar with the terrain, and familiar with the operation. This is an ideal opportunity for them to have their hands on,” Patton said.

When a hurricane thrashed Puerto Rico and surrounding islands last year, Patton’s team mobilized in Columbia to help with the process of receiving refugees via aircraft.

“It was anything that could fly that was getting people out of there. So you could expect large aircraft, small aircraft, you just don’t know,” Patton said. 

Lessons from the operation in Columbia helped develop and change Wednesday’s simulation. One victim enroute from their hurricane-damaged island nation, nearly died mid-flight. That’s why Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger is part of this training for the first time. 

“We’re here to do what we do on any given day, just a little different magnitude,” said Clevenger.

More than 150 emergency personnel participated in Wednesday’s drill. 

Members of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron volunteered to play “disaster victims.”

The simulation involved the Air Force, the National Guard, the U.S. Army, the South Carolina State Guard, the Department of Veterans Affairs Emergency Management, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local law enforcement, and local hospitals.

The exercise has taken place for at least 7 years. The training location alternates between GSP and Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) every other year.  

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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