Fort heightens security during force protection exercise
May 5, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA Ariz, --Moments after leaving the runway at Libby Army Airfield, an aircraft carrying approximately 30 military personnel crashed on Fort Huachuca killing and injuring those on board during a simulated exercise in the early morning hours on April 26.
Responding quickly to the scene, local fire and police departments, emergency medical response teams, and the garrison Directorate of Emergency Services practiced their interoperability with each other during this year's force protection exercise, Apache Warrior 2011.
Adding realism to the scenario, the crash site included scattered aircraft debris as well as role players with minor to simulated life-threatening injuries. Emergency personnel were immediately contacted to assist the living and transport casualties to the Sierra Vista Regional Health Center by ambulance or helicopter.
"The exercise is something we do at least twice a year to exercise our mutual aid agreements with local outside agencies and test the fort's ability to respond to increased threats, emergencies, and natural disasters," explained Dan Ortega, director, Directorate of Emergency Services.
Mutual aid is not just limited to emergency medical response, fire, and police departments, Ortega said. "A lot of pieces and a lot of organizations are involved to include the FBI, CID, Forest Service, and Hazardous Materials Response Teams. The skills we use here develop interagency coordination and exercise the entire installation."
While the scene was under investigation, the fort's security posture was increased to Force Protection Condition DELTA because, "... at this point we just don't know what happened. The crash may not have been an accident," Ortega said.
As a result, visitors to the fort experienced delays at the main gate, said Sgt. 1st Class Craig Hannum, operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Provost Marshall Office. "We funnel all traffic to a specific location where we conduct 100-percent inspections on all vehicles, personnel, equipment, and commercial vehicles."
Increased security just doesn't apply to the main gate," Ortega said. "It also applies to all units and all organizations on post. So ... they are exercising their increased security posture within their facilities. It really brings the whole installation together to execute our security awareness, our security posture, and what we need to do if we have an incident."
A second scenario the following day involved a domestic disturbance and child abduction/hostage situation at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center. Patients visiting the clinic witnessed increased security levels as a Code Pink was issued in the facility.
Fort Huachuca law enforcement personnel trained in hostage negotiation responded to the scene which occurred behind the hospital. After several hours of negotiation, the child was released and the suspect was arrested.
Although several visitors said they felt inconvenienced by the heightened level of security in the clinic, family member Katrina Tibik thought it was a valuable learning experience. "I was glad because it was a great learning experience for my two little kids. I loved the fact that I was able to make it a learning experience for my little girl," she said.