July 19, 2010 —
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. –Almost twenty-four hours after a notional nuclear blast exploded in Indianapolis, planes began arriving in the early morning hours to transport critical assets needed to support recovery efforts.
At the center of the activity, U.S. Army North's Joint Task Force - 51 dug in its heels and worked to finalize the critical communication systems and procedures to help support the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local state agencies.
Intercom speakers filled the air with "Emergency Signal Messages," which requested the residents stay inside and wait for assistance.
Such was the scene this week and last during the Vibrant Response field training exercise, at Camp Atterbury, the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and other surrounding areas in Indiana.
"It's important for the purpose of this exercise to maximize reality throughout," said Lt. Gen. Guy Swan III, commanding general, U.S. Army North and Fort Sam Houston. "The fast pace and the stress and chaos introduced during the exercise help units test their products and processes, and this is where units start to see if their systems are actually functioning - everything from their sleep plans to the battle rhythm."
During a catastrophic event such as this, time is of essence.
"Initially, the first 48 hours are critical due to the fact of the amount of personnel and equipment coming to one location," said Maj. Maria Tutt, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive officer from Army North. "Ensuring that our subordinate units, other Armed Forces and joint enablers come together and are accounted for, that's the most important first step in the overall mission."
For the exercise, as well as in a real-world application, setting up the command's contingency command post is critical to the success of providing assistance to local authorities. The support includes help in the decontamination process and providing support and aid to the local populace.
"This event is being put on by members of all services, components, DoD civilians and contractors. I'm impressed by the teamwork and seamlessness of all the players here," said Swan. "This is a model for how we have to operate in a real-world response. The public doesn't care what uniform we're wearing. They expect performance and results."
U.S. Army North's mission would be to provide immediate response and necessary assistance to support local, state and federal agencies.
"It's imperative we get coordination done with local law enforcement as soon as possible," said Staff Sgt. John Jenkins, provost marshal's office, ARNORTH. "We continuously look at the force protection aspect for the Joint Operation Area and build a threat picture for Department of Defense forces."
With the support from the various DoD components during the Vibrant Response exercise, joint cooperation is paramount in establishing a working relationship and understanding each others capabilities before an actual real-world catastrophe happens.
"We need to capture lessons learned on how the exercise is run. The whole CBRNE response enterprise is changing at the local, state and federal level. We need to capture the good tactics, techniques and procedures to train the forces that will be coming on over the next few years," said Swan. "We train for missions we hope we never have to execute, but we have to get it right the first time. The American public expects it and deserves it."