The might of the marines: Hurex a useful exercise for local volunteers

POSTED: 09/5/11 12:56 PM

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten / By Milton G Pieters – A group of Red Cross first responders who were caught in the cross fire ended up as part of the collateral damage and members of the VKS along with a few Dutch Marines became defiant and found themselves on the wrong side of the law during a mock exercise which was held on Front Street shortly before midnight on Saturday.
Long before the exercise began, the eventual victims (members of the Red Cross) were given the full treatment by a group of specialized make up artists who made them look as if they were actually injured in real life; the end result was vivid and in some cases gross.
The exercise which was run entirely by the Dutch Marines is part of the 2011 Operation HUREX in which the Marines capitalize on the opportunity to put into practice what they were trained to do when it came to riots and signs of disorderly conduct by groups in times of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
By extension, the worst case scenario afforded the members of the local Red Cross (First Responders) an opportunity to attend to the injured in the midst of an emergency situation and because they were risking their lives to be of assistance to the wounded, they were not exactly invincible, they too were vulnerable to injury.
While the victims were strategically laid out along Front Street between the Courthouse and Jump Up Casino, the agitators took up position in front of the Courthouse, awaiting the arrival of the Marines who were approaching from the opposite direction on foot.
At the sight of the Marines who were in full riot gear, the agitators began to chant in defiance, they were loud, unarmed and no match for the approaching Marines who were intent on maintaining order on the streets of Philipsburg even if it meant by force.
Under the expert guidance of a group of medical personnel from the HUREX, the members of the local Red Cross found themselves running between the pre arranged victims who were in need of medical attention; the few who were “fatally hit” were left on their own.
An occasional warning in Dutch fell on deaf ears with the agitators who had picked up branches, sticks and pieces of cardboard, but that did not intimidate the Marines in any way; they knew it was just a matter of time before the agitators would be subdued and when that moment finally came, it was time for some rough action.
After reaching the end of Front Street, the agitators who found themselves surrounded at that point decided to sit on the ground and form a human chain among themselves. But that was far as they would go because one by one, they were detached from the human chain, bound and marched off, and in some cases hoisted into a waiting jeep.

“Safety is our concern, we learned a lot, it’s knowledge that will carry us through for life,” said Maribel Postiena, the local Field Coordinator for the Red Cross. But the First Responders were not left entirely on their own as Postiena further explained. “We were assessed at the end of the exercise, they let us know what we did well and what areas we have to improve.”
Postiena said that everyone in the VKS, Police, Ambulance department, Red Cross and WIEMS should do this exercise once a year. But while it will be impossible for them to predict exactly what will happen in the event of a hurricane and things that go with it, they are more able to deal with the scenarios with whatever resources they have on hand.
This exercise certainly was a win-win situation for all involved, Onika Williams said. She went through this type of training for the first time and spoke about the thrilling experience shortly after a similar exercise which took place in Cay Bay early yesterday morning.
“The scenarios were real, the experiences we got have certainly prepared us to be better equipped for the field, to me it was like a dry run,” Williams stated. According to Williams, everything may not have been done like they expected, but now it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Williams pointed out that getting involved with the Red Cross is a conscious decision. “We are here to help people without expectation of gain, but we realize that we are not invincible and we too can get injured. We all have a passion to do something for people that are injured regardless of who they are.”

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