It's family day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and the base is bustling with proud families eager to take home their new Marines.
It appears to be an ordinary graduation weekend until a Chrysler minivan driven by a pair of terrorists mows down a crowd of civilians near the parade deck. Many are dead, more are injured, and one of the terrorists has escaped by running away.
That was the scenario -- hatched in the minds of the base's security analysts -- that Parris Island's military police, firefighters and Beaufort County EMS faced Thursday morning during the depot's annual anti-terrorism exercise.
"Victims" of the attack -- played by plain-clothed Marines -- lay scattered across the parking lot between the parade deck and the All-Weather Training Facility, all with placards around their necks detailing the symptoms they were asked to exhibit. Some hammed it up for paramedics, writhing in pain and screaming for help, while others -- mostly those assigned to be dead -- lay motionless on the asphalt while paramedics tended to the "injured."
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Ron Marcell, Parris Island's anti-terrorism analyst, saideach year his staff comes up with a different disaster scenario to test the depot's emergency readiness.
"We get together and talk about whether it should be a bomb or a chemical attack, and the object is to test the specialized units we have here at Parris Island, be it the hazmat team or the (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team," he said. "We try to pick a scenario that tests a team that hasn't been tasked recently, and we kind of get together and make up the disaster. We take what we do very seriously, but you can have some fun with it."
Beaufort County EMS played a large role in Thursday's exercise, treating patients in its $40,000, 20-bed mobile hospitaland -- if their fictional injuries were severe enough -- actually flying them to area hospitals using a helicopter parked on the parade deck.
Rusty Hollingsworth, director of Beaufort County EMS, said the exercise helped his the staff of about 20 paramedics analyze how they'd track patients in a real attack or other type of disaster with mass casualties.
"If this were real, and we had to go somewhere and set this up, we'd see hundreds of patients, and so we need to be able to tell who we've treated, what they're being treated for, and where they've been sent," he said. "So far, it's going pretty well."