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Painting the pain

Heather Winterstein, 81st Medical Support Squadron contracting officer representative, and Regina Parker, 81st Medical Operations Squadron mental health clinic secretary, apply moulage on Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

Heather Winterstein, 81st Medical Support Squadron contracting officer representative, and Regina Parker, 81st Medical Operations Squadron mental health clinic secretary, apply moulage on Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

Heather Winterstein, 81st Medical Support Squadron contracting officer representative, applies moulage on Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

Heather Winterstein, 81st Medical Support Squadron contracting officer representative, applies moulage on Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

Moulage application materials sit on a table Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

Moulage application materials sit on a table Dec. 14, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Winterstein, Parker and the Keesler Moulage Team help with emergency response training for on and off base first responders by ensuring injuries on those participating in the training look as real as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Blood, burns, scars, bruises and bones sticking out of human bodies. These could all be scary things . . . if they were real.

Even though moulage injuries are all applied with brushes, the prosthetics are used to set the stage for real-life scenarios for first responders on Keesler and around the Gulf Coast area.

“We help train all the first responders on base,” said Regina Parker, 81st Medical Operations Squadron mental health clinic secretary. “Anyone who is a first responder -- like our security forces, fire department and medical personnel -- gets training using moulage. The exercises also involve the entire base, so essentially our mission as the moulage team impacts everyone.”

Behind every hectic first responder exercise there’s a moulage team making the magic happen.

Encompassing the roles of director and makeup artist, each member of the team spends time applying the moulage to each exercise participant and prepping them mentally for the role they will play as a victim.

“We don’t just put makeup on the volunteers,” said Heather Winterstein, 81st Medical Support Squadron medical contract technician. “We instruct them on what their role is they are playing. We tell them everything from how they have to act, like yelling, screaming and crying. We do our best to make sure that our volunteers are prepared to make each exercise or training event as real as possible.”

Each member of the moulage team brings readiness to Keesler through creativity and knowledge of emergency response.

“I’ve been on the moulage team for almost six years,” said Parker. “It’s so much fun being part of the moulage team and it gives you the opportunity to use your imagination and talent, but you know you are doing something to help create an education system for first responders. We know readiness is very important and we take that very seriously, but we are also having fun keeping Keesler ready for any emergency situation.”

Although the moulage team is robust now, just a few years ago it was more of an afterthought with regard to readiness on Keesler. The team has not only grown in size but has been able to build its knowledge of moulage application with the help of Bill Mays, 81st Training Wing Inspector General wing inspection team manager.

“At first the program was just a lot of trial and error when it came to figuring out how to get stuff done,” said Parker. “When Bill saw that we were basically working out of a storage closet he helped build the program up to what it is now. He got the funding to buy our supplies and even sent us up to training in Virginia. If it weren’t for his help we wouldn’t be able to do this for the first responders.”

Through training and creativity, the moulage team is helping Keesler stay ready for any emergency situation by creating realistic scenarios for on and off base first responders.

“We give these Airmen real-life scenarios,” said Winterstein. “We try to make the wounds and scenarios as real as possible so that if they were in the situation they would be mentally prepared. What we do keeps our responders ready so they can perform their mission in any situation.”