October 24, 2018

When most people in the San Francisco Bay area hear the term Fleet Week, they probably think of boats and planes. In 2016, I discovered a hidden gem of this annual event. When I saw that the activities included The Humanitarian Village set up by the US Marines and various humanitarian organizations, I knew I had to attend. Not simply out of curiosity, but for research purposes.

What is The Humanitarian Village? It’s a display of various elements that might come into play in the case of a mass emergency such as a natural disaster, an epidemic, or a terrorist attack. 

Some of the displays I visited in 2016 included military medical and dental tents, a tent displaying the protective gear and robots used when dealing with explosives, and a massive filtration system that allowed me to drink water pulled from San Francisco Bay. Very cool!

Since Lance, one of the secondary characters in my current series WAR, is a former US military medic and I’m always having my characters get injured, I spent the most time at the hospital tent. I asked a gazillion questions of the Navy corpsmen and women on duty. Yes, the tent was part of a Marine encampment, but the Navy supplies the Marines with their medical staff.

I found everyone to be extremely friendly and willing to answer my questions. I even received a personal tour from the company commander, including a closer look at the generators. Points to him for not flinching when I asked about the consequences of having my bad guys blow up the generators!

Here’s the inside of the triage tent.

Inside the medical triage tent

See those pouches hanging on the wall? Each item always goes into the exact same pocket so that the doctors can reach for the item without really have to look at it. When enough pockets go empty, the whole thing is removed and replaced with a full one.

Another secondary character in the WAR series is JC, the team’s explosives expert. So of course I had to get a closer look at the protective gear he might use. (Want to see a picture of me trying on the helmet? Then check out Part 2 of this series.)

Picture of an EOD protective suit

I also talked to the soldiers staffing the mobile kitchen, climbed inside a military ambulance, and stared in fascination at the devices used to detect dangerous chemical or biological agents.

Lesson of the day? It pays to explore all offerings at an event even if you think you know everything that’s on the program. You might come across an unexpected research opportunity. 

How about you? What fascinating events have you stumbled upon recently?

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