Hermiston paramedic inauguration

Emersyn Aitkin, 5, sprays a fire hose with some assistance from paramedic Mark Johnson during a tour of the Hermiston fire station in February 2014. Johnson will be going to Washington, D.C., to serve on a paramedic on the Disaster Medical Assistance Team during Donald Trump's inauguration.

Mark Johnson will see history up close this month, when he serves on a team of paramedics working at the Jan. 20 inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

Johnson, a Hermiston native and paramedic with Hermiston’s fire district for almost 17 years, is part of a statewide disaster response team called the Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The teams are formed by state, and are deployed for federal events that can include natural disasters or national security matters. Most states in the U.S. have at least one team, Johnson said. Those teams are on rotation throughout the year, and Johnson’s team is up for January.

“Our team commander sends out the federal info to us and asks us if we want to go,” he said.

The teams provide medical assistance, and are akin to hospital units that can set up anywhere.

“We basically can take care of ourselves for up to three days,” Johnson said. The group was created in 2000, and Johnson was one of the charter members for Oregon’s team. The team has provided medical care at catastrophes like hurricanes Rita and Katrina, as well as been present at other events — such as when international figureheads visit the U.S. — to provide medical care if necessary.

“Our medical team was one of the teams (there) for the pope’s visit,” he said, recalling his most recent deployment.

In order to work the event, paramedics and team members had to be vetted and cleared at a federal level. Johnson said with the animosity surrounding this year’s election and inauguration, it’s possible his team will see more issues.

“It has the potential to be challenging for security,” he said of working the inauguration. “We know from that standpoint — the federal government — security is one of their strong points. But every deployment has the potential. This one is more politically active.”

The team does a lot of training, some for specific activities and some for general maintenance and preparation.

“Our job is to be there, and to be available for anything that happens at a moment’s notice,” he said.

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Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at jramakrishnan@hermistonherald.com or 541-564-4534.

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