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MCLB conducts 'Steel Flint 2011'

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- The Georgia State Patrol, Dougherty's emergency management agency and emergency medical service teams, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Albany Fire Department and Air Evac Lifeteam were among the visitors to Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on Wednesday.

These organizations were there as participants of "Steel Flint 2011," a full-scale exercise that was conducted throughout the day.

"It was a joint exercise between the base and various agencies," said 1st Lt. Kyle Thomas, public affairs officer at the base. "(The exercise) was a mass casualty event."

In the scenario, the base's fire department got a call at 8:30 a.m. reporting that an aircraft had flown over the installation while releasing an unknown substance -- after which 75 individuals, some of whom were volunteers representing Turner Job Corps, were decontaminated and sent to Phoebe.

While perimeters were being set up and the casualties were being dealt with, officers from the base's police department were seen out in protective suits to help them maintain order.

During the course of the exercise, there was some delays in personnel being unable to access MCLB-Albany at the main gate.

Despite that frustration, officials emphasize that the delays were necessary.

"We need to exercise these things to make sure all the contacts are working," said Jack Colby, the installation's fire chief. "People still want to go about their business, but we're in a city within a city.

"When we do these things, it lets us know what we need to work on."

This particular exercise was unique in that it involved participation from outside agencies, something that has not been done in some time. Overall, officials said they made good progress as a result of the exercise. However, there are some things that they feel still need to be worked on.

"We learned that you've got to communicate with the victims," Colby said. "We've got to manage them by communicating with them. We never thought about that."

Jennifer Almeida, who was there representing Phoebe, seemed to gain something from the exercise as well.

"It helped us as far as working together as a team and making sure everything is accurate," she said. "It helped us realize things we need to work on. That's why we do drills."

Carolyn Maschke, public information officer for the Southwest Public Health District, was also there, mainly in the role of an observer.

"From my perspective, it went very well," she said. "There will be lessons learned, but they will be beneficial to the whole community.