BH 17-1: Communications outage at MDG

An IV is inserted into a simulated patient at the 51st Medical Group as part of Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017. One of the scenarios during this exercise saw the simulated cutting of all electronic communications to the medical group, requiring the medics to provide the same level of care to Team Osan without the convenience of modern technologies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

An IV is inserted into a simulated patient at the 51st Medical Group as part of Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017. One of the scenarios during this exercise saw the simulated cutting of all electronic communications to the medical group, requiring the medics to provide the same level of care to Team Osan without the convenience of modern technologies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman John Cody, 51st Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a simulated patient as part of Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017. Medics from the 51st MDG use exercises like Beverly Herd to prepare themselves for real-world contingency operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman John Cody, 51st Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a simulated patient as part of Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017. Medics from the 51st MDG use exercises like Beverly Herd to prepare themselves for real-world contingency operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Johns, left, 51st Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy technician, Senior Airman John Cody, middle, 51st MDOS medical technician, and Maj. Nathan Kim, right, 51st MDOS physician, treat a simulated patient during Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017.  Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 offered a multitude of scenarios for Team Osan medics to practice, helping ensure their ability to “Fight Tonight.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Johns, left, 51st Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy technician, Senior Airman John Cody, middle, 51st MDOS medical technician, and Maj. Nathan Kim, right, 51st MDOS physician, treat a simulated patient during Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 28, 2017. Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 offered a multitude of scenarios for Team Osan medics to practice, helping ensure their ability to “Fight Tonight.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 had the 51st Medical Group answer an important question: what happens if electronic communications are cut during an emergency?

In the event that the MDG Secure Internet Protocol Routers and Non-secure Internet Protocol Routers become non-functional during war time, it is imperative that communication with the rest of base is continued in one way or another, and that was the exact scenario the medics tackled on Feb. 28.

 “If our communications go down, we won’t have instantaneous messaging; our ability to get the message out is going to be delayed, but still needs to be timely,” said Master Sgt. John Ryan Villanueva, 51st Medical Support Squadron war reserve material section chief and wing inspection team member

The solution to one of the most pressing issues communication problems bring up, keeping in touch with other agencies across base, was old-school: sending an Airman runner to relay urgent messages.

“That message needs to be properly conveyed through,” said Villanueva. “We also [test] timeliness and how quickly they deliver their message.”

Downed communications also means that MDG disaster teams dedicate two members per team to continuously pass on and receive information to prevent important messages from stagnating, and keep the dozens of teams that form the moving parts of the hospital from desynchronizing.

“People are very dependent on electronic communication,” said Maj. Thomas Shadd, 51st MDSS Tricare operations flight commander. “Everywhere you go, communication is always an issue [during] exercises. We want to make sure those teams can communicate without their normal methods in case of real-life situations.”

Even though the Air Force is a hub of high-tech equipment and capabilities, Team Osan medics don’t let modern conveniences act as a crutch to accomplish their mission.

“We would function completely by paper means as far as tracking patients,” said Tommy Brown, 51st MDG emergency manager. “If this situation does happen, we still have person to person communication that can still get the job done.”