Military, civilians partner for vital disaster training

By Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski | Joint Task Force - Alaska Public Affairs | May 10, 2007

North Pole, Alaska - In a unified effort to save lives and protect vital infrastructure facilities, Airmen, Soldiers and civilian first responders trained together May 9 as they responded to a mass casualty exercise scenario.

The training event was part of Alaska Shield/Northern Edge, Alaska's portion of an annual national training exercise designed to hone interagency cooperation. Running through May 18, organizations from all levels of local and federal government will train together in mock crisis situations
ranging from natural disasters to terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

In a multiple vehicle improvised explosive attack scenario, simulated terrorists attacked the North Pole Refinery Complex - a location linked to the state's energy sector.

"We practiced it and worked to get it right so the citizens of Alaska can feel safe," said Army Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the Alaska Adjutant General. "State, local and federal government agencies are prepared to respond and work fluidly together to take care of people in an emergency situation."

In addition, several government and civic leaders observed the training scenario so they could see first hand how effectively the military and civilian agencies would respond to a real-world emergency, said Lt. Gen.
Douglas Fraser, Alaska Command commander.

"An exercise like this is all about supporting the state and its people," General Fraser said. "It provides us an opportunity to further build a relationship with our civilian neighbors and demonstrate the importance of homeland security and homeland defense."

More than 150 "victims" were involved in the training event. The medical teams were a mix of Total Force and civilian responders. National Guard Soldiers from Nebraska; Air National Guardsmen from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska and active duty volunteers from nearby Eielson AFB participated, as well as firefighters and other civilian emergency technicians from around the local area.

Overall, more than 5,000 people across the state are involved in the training exercise, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Bowers, Alaska command plans and programs director.

"This is good training for senior leaders and first responders about how the military can augment civilian agencies and meet the state's training goals," Colonel Bowers said. "But the training won't stop with these two weeks - the exercise is merely validation to assess capabilities.
Training goes on always and as a nation, we must constantly be aware, on alert and ready to assist whenever we can."

Senior Airman Steven Woodson, a local resident and volunteer victim, said he was amazed to see how seamlessly so many organizations worked together without difficulties or misunderstandings.

"If a terrorist attack like this ever happened for real, it's good to know that people would know what to do to save lives," Airman Woodson said.

"The exercise went very well and there wasn't anyone who didn't learn something," added Air Force reserve Maj. Sharolyn Lange, the lead medic on scene and chief nurse at Kulis. "There was excellent cooperation from all involved - they were all skilled and weren't overlapping efforts.

Our military teams worked well with those from the city, which is important because in a situation like this, it would take all of us working together and that's just what we did."

Media interested in covering Alaska Shield/Northern Edge 2007 can call the state Joint Information Center at 428-6031 or the Joint Task Force-Alaska Media Center at 552-0592.