Garmisch exercise tests Soldiers, host nation emergency services
September 10, 2008
GARMISCH, Germany Aca,!" Aca,!A"Exercise, exercise, exercise,Aca,!A? was a repeated caveat here Sept. 5, as this normally quiet outpost nestled at the foot of the German Alps erupted with activity.
Garmisch has been a U.S. Army garrison since 1945, but seeing Soldiers Aca,!" in a post-Cold War era Aca,!" wearing gas masks in full battle-rattle with weapons patrolling the perimeter and working the gates is an uncommon site.
But add in colorful, bulky biochemical suits that resemble something from the set of a 1950s sci-fi movie and you had a full-scale force protection exercise.
Soldiers from the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, out of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, augmented GarmischAca,!a,,cs military police force, with German emergency services responding enthusiastically and in numbers larger than anticipated.
Aca,!A"This exercise was mostly an opportunity to work with external support to defend this post in a time of need,Aca,!A? said Alonzo Edwards, USAG Garmisch security specialist.
The scenario involved the intentional release of a commercially available hazardous chemical at the garrison school while students were at lunch. The actual and simulated time of the exercise was a difference of six hours, mostly to accommodate host nation resources and to avoid interruption of peak traffic hours.
And when the German Polizei, the Garmisch Fire Department, and the Bavarian Red Cross received the urgent call for help, they scrambled a fleet of emergency vehicles Aca,!A"Code 3Aca,!A? to the garrisonAca,!a,,cs Artillery Kaserne.
During the exercise, student and adult role players took their roles seriously, with smoke from a near-by barbeque adding an unintentional Aca,!" but realistic Aca,!" haze to the warm summer evening. First responders established a triage point and began evacuating Aca,!A"victimsAca,!A? from the school.
The one road leading in and out of the garrisonAca,!a,,cs Breitenau housing area soon became crowded with emergency vehicles, decontamination points, responders and role players, forcing the MPs to shut it down temporarily for safety. This led to some confusion amongst garrison residents and campground guests not participating in the exercise.
But every exercise is a learning experience, said Steve Denman, acting director of plans, training, mobility and security, and the driving force behind the drill.
Aca,!A"When mistakes are made, it is always better to discover them during training than during an actual crisis,Aca,!A? said Denman. Aca,!A"We learned better cooperation and coordination with our host nation emergency services.Aca,!A?
The garrisonAca,!a,,cs Army Community Service, so new that it doesnAca,!a,,ct officially begin operations until Oct. 1, also went into the breech.
Aca,!A"An Emergency Family Assistance Center was established for the first time in Garmisch history,Aca,!A? said Doris Tyler, ACS division chief for the garrison. Aca,!A"EFACs are set up in natural or man-made disasters to support the community members and provide information, support and comfort in a centralized area. It worked well thanks to our volunteer role players.Aca,!A?
Lessons learned were discussed in a short briefing immediately after the exercise at the emergency operations center, and again at a bilingual after-action review Sept. 8.
After all, these annual exercises are to show the bad and the good, said garrison Fire Chief Wolfgang Pauls-Polch, who worked at the incident command center coordinating on-site activities.
Aca,!A"Not all things worked out perfect, but that's the reason why we do these exercises,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"We should learn from our mistakes to handle it much better in a real emergency. Overall, we can be quite satisfied with the progress.Aca,!A?