When in doubt, add more blood: Moulage an important part of readiness

  • Published
  • By Beth Young
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
     Most save the fake blood and gore for Halloween, but there's a group at Hill Air Force Base who always has some on hand - the base's moulage artists.
     Moulage is the art of applying mock injuries to "victims" as a way to test emergency responders on their technique and procedures.
     During readiness exercises, held every couple of months, Team Hill members are tested on their ability to respond to emergencies, from aircraft crashes to terrorist attacks. An important part of this is taking care of the wounded.
     "Moulage is important in an exercise," said Eric Faucher, who works with the 75th Air Base Wing installation responsible for exercise planning and coordinating with the Exercise Evaluation Team. "It provides the realism that is hard to simulate with using drop cards that simply explain the description of an injury. When a responder sees the injured moulage victim, it eliminates any guess work."
     To make the wounds realistic involves more than just a lot of fake blood. The moulage artists use professional movie effects to create everything from simple lacerations and burns to impaled objects and missing limbs.
     "When you practice with them being bloody and gory and nasty looking, when it happens in real life it's not going to be nearly as much of a shock," said Tech. Sgt. John Ford, 75th Medical Group family practice technician and moulage artist. "The more realistic it is in training, the better reaction you will have in a real life situation."
Moulage artists are usually in the medical field because they have real life experience with medical emergencies and wounds.
     "They like to have medical staff do it just for the simple fact we know how the wounds look and we have a better understanding of how the wounds should be portrayed," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Henry, 75th Medical Group professional development NCOIC responsible for coordinating moulage, and also a moulage artist.
     Moulage is important not only to train medical staff, but anyone who may be faced with injuries in emergencies.
     "With our troops going to Iraq and Afghanistan, we are seeing a lot of injuries and of course, you're not always going to have a medic sitting right next to you," Sergeant Henry said. "The reason we do these wounds; a lot of it ties into self aid and buddy care. The maintenance guy who is out there with his buddy who just got hit by a mortar round -- we teach self aid and buddy care in the hopes that he can stabilize him until they can get medical attention."
     Although it's serious business training people for emergencies, Sergeants Henry and Ford both say they have a lot of fun.
     "I made a wound where basically I sliced a guy from his armpit to his belly button - ribs and intestines sticking out," Sergeant Henry said. "It's just a lot of fun--friggin' fun. There is a lot of seriousness to it, but it's fun to see what limit I can push and gross someone out. More blood makes it look good. When in doubt add more blood."
     The moulage artists also use a lot of creativity and talent to create "victims." Using latex and other materials, the moulage artists actually melt the materials and design the wounds themselves.
     "It's all about imagination and how gory you want to make it look," Sergeant Henry said. "Not every wound needs to be so vicious you want to throw up."
Every day objects are often used add to the realism. Moulage artist will use chicken bones for ribs, plastic bottles for glass shards and throw dirt in a wound.
     "I've been walking along the side of the road and thought "there's a nice piece of metal I could use"," said Sergeant Ford.
     The art of moulage can be taught on the job, which is how Sergeant Henry learned and is teaching others who are interested, but because it is so important to exercises, the Air Force also sends some to training.
     "I went to a four-day special effects moulage course, taught by a company called Image Perspectives," Sergeant Ford said. "The state of Utah asked the people to run a course at Camp Williams, and they had emergency responders from all over the state. It was a blast."
     Besides blood and latex, another important part of moulage are the volunteer victims.
     "The "wounded" volunteers have fun with it and are very important for the exercise responders by creating realism, not only with simulated wounds, but with some very good acting," Mr. Faucher said.
     Although those involved with moulage find a lot of enjoyment in creating realistic emergency situations, the true satisfaction comes from the fact that their work helps saves lives.
     "I think it does (help save lives)," Sergeant Henry said. "I wouldn't do it, if it didn't. I think it helps them be more prepared."