Installation tests emergency response in CAIRA exercise
Chemical Defense Training Facility personnel provide first aid to a "victim" during the CAIRA exercise Tuesday. The exercise was designed to test facility personnel and first responders if a chemical incident were to occur at the CDTF.

FORT LEONARD WOOD, MO. -- EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE!

Imagine repeatedly practicing for something that hopefully will never happen. That is exactly what emergency responders do at the Chemical Defense Training Facility -- the Department of Defense's only toxic nerve agent training facility.

The scenario began with a student suddenly developing flu-like symptoms during training; the crew at the CDTF sprang into action Sept. 17. They were prepared for just this type of incident.

"The outcome of today's exercise validated our response procedures in this particular scenario," said Dan Murray, CDTF director. "Much of the focus of this exercise was on the emergency response within the CDTF, the medical response executed by GLWACH, and then the mission command aspect with regard to reporting."

Chemical Accident/Incident Response and Assistance exercises have taken place at various locations around the country for years and Fort Leonard Wood has practiced many different scenarios.

"This exercise usually has one (patient), but this time we wanted two patients to stress the medical system," said John Carey III, CDTF deputy director/surety coordinator.

Dave Schodlatz, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence chemical surety specialist, said that it takes a lot of planning and coordination for an exercise of this magnitude. He said they start planning about 2 -- 2 1/2 months out to prepare for this exercise.

Murray said each exercise involves several installation organizations, each with their own roles and responsibilities.

"Whenever the MSCoE Surety Office can bring the Garrison Command, the Directorate of Emergency Services, and General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital together in the planning and execution of these response exercises, we get a much better evaluation of our overall preparedness," Murray said.

The live-agent training that takes place at the CDTF is something that all Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear military personnel must go through whether they are in training or in an operational unit. This includes all branches of service.

"(Military personnel) use the CDTF as a training venue for the practical application of detection, identification, and decontamination skills while in a lethal toxic nerve agent environment," Murray said. "Training at this facility builds confidence at the individual and unit level in our ability to survive and win on a contaminated battlefield."

The CDTF has never had a real-world incident, and they work hard to ensure it stays that way.

"This is the expectation from the commanding general on down -- that we ensure everyone who is part of the team is properly exercised and evaluated so that we accept no risk to the safety and security of the mission at CDTF," Murray said. "While our after-action reviews always yield minor observations, everything was executed according to plan. It was a very good test of our readiness."

(Editor's note: Details regarding the actual exercise were omitted due to Operational Security concerns.)

Page last updated Wed September 25th, 2013 at 00:00