Renuart: Exercise is 'most demanding scenario' for nation

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. —  Ardent Sentry  - Northern Edge '07, an emergency response training exercise involving agencies ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to local firefighters, "may well be the most demanding scenario our nation would face," said the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command in a press conference today at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

"It's beyond the capacity of any single agency to respond to (the exercise scenarios) on their own," said Gen. Gene Renuart. "This is our opportunity to pull all of these (agencies) together and to find ways to fill the seams" between their capabilities.

Ardent Sentry - Northern Edge '07 is the largest and most complex exercise undertaken by USNORTHCOM. So far, participating local, state and federal agencies have responded to simulated crises including a hurricane devastating the northeast coast of the United States last week and the detonation Thursday of a nuclear device in Indianapolis.

In Indiana, the nuclear blast and resulting radioactive fallout caused extensive destruction of property, loss of infrastructure and deaths and injuries of thousands of people. The level of agency response quickly rose from local to county to state, and the governor of Indiana activated National Guard forces to assist in emergency relief efforts. But even additional National Guard troops from Ohio and Illinois weren't enough to keep up with the escalating disaster.

"(The exercise) was planned that way, to stress us to the point where we would then go to Northern Command for assistance from Joint Task Force Civil Support," said Army Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, the adjutant general of Indiana.

Personnel at JTF-CS, a subordinate command of USNORTHCOM, "spend their full-time mission, every day, looking at disaster response plans from all over the country to try to identify what capabilities we might need in this circumstance," Renuart said.

JTF-CS is the nation’s only standing Joint Operational Headquarters dedicated exclusively to planning and integrating Department of Defense forces in response to domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incidents.

USNORTHCOM has deployed more than 1,200 active-duty military personnel to respond to the simulated crisis in Indiana. These troops belong to a specialized team called a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force, and they have aviation, communication and logistics capabilities.

Active-duty military members, Reservists and National Guardsmen are working side-by-side in Indiana, performing a common mission with equal skill and with no regard to military service status, said National Guard chief, Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum.

"This is the way it's supposed to work," Blum said. "We're saving lives, restoring property and getting things back to normal."

Ardent Sentry - Northern Edge '07 began April 30 and will continue through May 17.