The Argentine and Chilean Navies carried out the Critical Air Evacuation Joint Exercise (EVACRIT, per its Spanish acronym) on September 13th, in Ushuaia, the capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego. In a joint operation with police, civilian doctors, and nurses, the countries' service members practiced aid operations, using air and land vehicles. A total of 92 people participated in the exercise.
“EVACRIT is a joint plan for emergency medical evacuation in humanitarian demining operations,” Argentine Navy Captain Luis Rafael Sgrilletti, chief of staff of the Southern Naval Area, told Diálogo. “The objective was mutual cooperation in the event of an accident during the clearing of minefields on Isla Nueva, in the southern zone of Chile,” Capt. Sgrilletti said. “The teams prepared to provide assistance in the event of injuries of any kind to Chilean military personnel involved in this task.”
According to Capt. Sgrilletti, EVACRIT focuses on potential emergencies during the demining of the islands south of the Beagle Channel, in Chilean territory, which takes place between the first week of September and the first week of April. “The Chilean Navy’s Land Mines Operations use all required elements to carry out this work, while complying with all corresponding security regulations, staying overnight in the area of operations,” he explained.
The mined area is difficult to access because of the strong winds and rain, in addition to the complex geography. Although accidents are unlikely when demining techniques are used, they must be taken into account, Capt. Sgrilletti said. “As such, at the start of our project we perform an actual exercise with stages of evacuation to the city of Puerto Williams, and, depending on the severity of the injuries, an air evacuation to the city of Ushuaia,” he added.
EVACRIT simulated an accident with a service member during demining work on Picton Island, in the south of Chile. The explosion caused the severing of both arms at the elbow, and left a shard embedded in the spleen. The injured was taken by helicopter to the Islas Malvinas International Airport in Ushuaia.
“After the patient was evaluated, he was transferred to the Ushuaia Regional Hospital, due to the complexity of the situation,” the Argentine Navy stated in a release. The troops evacuated the patient by ambulance to the Ushuaia Naval Hospital with the help of police patrol cars, which cleared the way from the airport to the hospital. Cars from the Ushuaia municipality blocked roads to allow the convoy to travel faster. At the same time, Ushuaia Naval Base vehicles moved doctors, nurses, and military personnel.
“The participants' skill resulted in an almost one minute improvement [in comparison to] the previous time, coming in at six minutes and 40 seconds,” the Argentine Navy stated. Once at the hospital, the patient underwent an emergency laparotomy (abdominal surgery).
According to Capt. Sgrilletti, the EVACRIT results were highly satisfactory. “These exercises are extremely important to the development of operations that contribute to world peace and the safety of people,” he said. The exercise mobilized a large number of civilian and military units. “[With this training] we recognize the humanitarian value of demining, through measures that allow for quicker and more effective response to potential medical emergencies occurring in the southern territories of Chile,” Capt. Sgrilletti concluded.
“The joint exercises (forces from two different countries) are a fundamental component to implement the process of mutual trust,” Juan Belikow, professor of International Relations at the University of Buenos Aires, told Diálogo. “Argentina and Chile are pioneers in this area in Latin America.”
According to Belikow, exercises such as EVACRIT also allow for the evaluation of the teams’ professional training and readiness. “In addition, they force the review and update of intervention protocols for foreseeable emergency situations, ensuring compatibility of joint procedures,” he explained. “These exercises facilitate the periodic review of policies, strategies, logistics, and operations—office work that the exercise validates.”