Simulated car bomb kicks off Hohenfels exercise
September 3, 2008
HOHENFELS, Germany - To early-morning drivers, it seemed as if Hohenfels was in the middle of a catastrophe.
Smoke rose above the Child Development Center as paramedics rushed in to save children trapped inside. Firemen wearing gas masks fought to contain an inferno started by a car bomb next to the building, which had one of its walls blown in.
For a while it was impossible to enter post - and at times difficult to leave as military police tried to contain the scene.
But while certainly realistic, this was not the tragic aftermath of a terrorist attack, but rather a recent Force Protection Exercise simulated to resemble one here.
The exercise, an annual requirement for U.S. installations in Europe, was designed for garrison leadership and emergency officials to assess and correct vulnerabilities, said Tom Janis, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels chief of operations.
Planning for the simulation started almost a year ago, in August of 2007, with the final concept, aimed at testing previous improvements, approved in October of last year.
When deciding on a scenario catalyst - a car bomb - planners took into consideration the installation's location, what vulnerabilities had been identified and what threats are most likely, noted Janis.
"From a planner's perspective it went well," he said, adding that the simulation and initial response went particularly fine, though there will always be room for improvements.
To identify such improvements, evaluators patrolled the scene with clipboards and cameras, taking notes on every aspect of the exercise. Afterwards, they held an after-action review to summarize their findings, which were passed along to planners and each agency and organization involved, who then performed their own AAR.
A significant number of the organizations involved were from surrounding host nation communities. German fire departments from Hohenfels, Parsberg, Markstetten and Raitenbuch responded, along with four local doctors who experienced what it is like to deal with a multiple casualty situation, said Ed Rotay, garrison force protection officer.
Uwe Suchomel from the Bavarian Red Cross training school in Hohenfels coordinated volunteers to play the injured.
"Without [Suchomel], we couldn't have done it," said Rotay. "We rely heavily on host nation support to do anything on post."
Guenter Stoeckl, a local national employed as the garrison fire chief, acted as the incident commander.