Flesh and blood: moulage brings realism to Icemen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Perras
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Fake blood, plastic molds and makeup are usually items reserved for a horror movie or haunted house. For a select few Icemen, these items are in stock year-round.

Moulage technicians here create fake wounds on "victims" for the sole purpose of training. These wounds help responders assess a situation without worry of any real damage. Of course, this is all done to help prepare Icemen should real injuries one day occur, and enable them with the tools to provide care.

Recently, moulage members were put to the test during an exercise at Eielson. Emergency evaluation team members incorporated random self-aid buddy care scenarios of injured Airmen in a work center, and personnel had to respond quickly.

"Paired with some of our best self-aid buddy care instructors, [moulage members] were able to provide realistic training on likely injuries that could be seen in combat or in garrison," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Clark, 354th Fighter Wing self-assessment program manager. "Airmen were given the opportunity to practice the life-saving skills they have been trained for and it provided an invaluable training experience that will pay large dividends in the event of a real-life situation."

Being able to see a moulaged person without notice and provide SABC with immediate feedback from an instructor provides an experience that other simulations cannot.

"People get to look, poke and prod, and ask all their questions without worrying that the person is really hurt," said Senior Airman Wanda Sinclair, 354th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician and moulage team member. "We've also seen people get queasy with the realism of the injuries - but I think it's helped a lot of people learn."

That learning experience works both ways for the victims and the responders, said Staff Sgt. Raul Salazar, 354th Medical Group ambulance response technician. Victims learn what happens in those situations and how their injuries would be treated while responders gain hands-on skills of knowing how to react.

"You might know exactly what to do for an open fracture with heavy arterial bleeding, but if you can't do it in two to four minutes and know what it actually looks like, your victim will die - no question," Sinclair said. "People need to have realistic training often enough so that when they're called into action, it is second nature for them."

Moulage emphasizes realism in order to increase overall effectiveness of emergency response training during exercises and in-house scenarios.

"Imagine a little kid playing doctor and their friend says, 'I have a broken leg' and hobbles around, but there's nothing there. They don't know what a broken bone even looks like," said Sinclair. "Moulage helps people see the realism of what injuries would look like. We put something there so that first responders know what to look for, how to react and how to treat the injuries."

In a deployed environment, time is of the essence, Salazar said. A split-second decision could mean the difference between life and death, and moulage helps make life-saving actions become second nature.

While seeing moulage adds a genuine feel to injuries, the process comes with obstacles. Time, proper resources and creativity all pose hurdles to a moulage team if not handled accordingly.

"You can't just [magically create certain injuries] into existence - you have to use your resources and think outside the box," Sinclair explained. "You also can't overdo the makeup application. Too much blood, too much bruising, too much doctoring and it runs the risk of looking cartoonish."

Moulage allows mistakes to happen in a controlled environment so individuals can adapt and be ready for future challenges, ultimately providing a learning experience to participants as well as moulage technicians who help put on the show.

"I like to learn and I like to teach other people the things I've learned ... It's good to know that if something happens to me or a friend, there is someone with the skills to save my or their life," Sinclair said. "[The moulage team enables] people to help themselves and others when it's their turn to step up to the plate."

As Airmen continue to deploy, moulage will remain an important in keeping members of the Iceman Team as capable and mission-ready as possible.