Army North prepares to respond to possible catastrophic event
August 19, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, August 19, 2011) -- Vibrant Response, an annual training exercise that brings together the military and civilian authorities in preparation for responding to a catastrophic incident, takes place Aug. 16-28 in Indiana.
More than 7,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Department of Defense civilians are descending upon Camp Atterbury, the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, and various surrounding areas in Indiana, to execute DOD support to civil authorities in a consequence management role during the Vibrant Response 12 exercise.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Jacobs is the commanding general of U.S. Army North's Joint Task Force 51.
"As commander of the U.S. Army North's Contingency Command Post, we form the nucleus of the headquarters for the C2CRE-Alpha, or Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response element," Jacobs said.
Vibrant Response, he said, will be the culminating training exercise and the validation for the C2CRE.
"It's a great training opportunity. We'll be working with the entire CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) enterprise to include our state National Guard partners from the civil support teams all the way through Homeland response forces," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the Department of Defense is not the lead agency in a CBRN event.
"CBRN Consequence Management is a defense support of civil authorities, and it's part of a coordinated federal response employed at the request of the governor and with the express approval and at the express direction of the Secretary of Defense," Jacobs said.
Joint Task Force-Civil Support, based at Fort Eustis, Va., and members of the Defense CBRN Response Force -- or DCRF, will work with other federal, state and local emergency responders during the first half of the exercise.
Army North's Joint Task Force 51 will lead the forces of C2CRE-A during the second half of the exercise.
The DCRF and C2CRE-A are organized into four task forces: Task Force Operations, Task Force Aviation, Task Force Medical and Task Force Sustainment. Their capabilities include CBRN technical rescue, decontamination, aviation, medical, logistics and other functions.
During the exercise, members of the 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, Michigan Army National Guard, simulated rolling out of Cincinnati when they notionally observed the flash and felt the bang of a simulated nuclear blast, Aug. 16. A call came over the radio telling them to turn around, head back into the simulated incident area and to monitor radiation along a route that police and firefighters would use.
Speakers in training areas blared safety messages for residents. "This is an urgent message from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. This is not a test. Officials confirm that a nuclear explosion has occurred in the Cincinnati area. Police and firefighters are on the ground and more help is coming."
The Guard team pulled in front of a large building that was billowing smoke. The team began pulling equipment out of trailers and compartments. People milling about demanded information and begged for medical aid and water from the team.
"Are we under attack?" a bystander asked a team member. "Help us, please."
While the exercise simulated a disaster in Cincinnati, the participants were actually at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex in southern Indiana, and the "victims" of the simulated 10-kiloton nuclear detonation were actually role players, in various degrees of garb, simulating injured citizens during the initial phase of the exercise.
"(The way we respond to catastrophes today) is in large part a direct result from the lessons learned ... things we could have and should have done in our response to Hurricane Katrina," said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Treacy, commander of Joint Task Force -- Civil Support.
"One of the ways we do things here during Vibrant Response is to take a complex system that has multi-overlapping authorities in place ... and make us one very responsive group of organizations ... federal, state, and the other agencies that are not DO," Treacy said.
The general said the exercise is all about developing a unity of effort.
"We're in the midst of intensely practicing to make sure we're not only responsive, but we're very fast at doing it," Treacy said. "In the wake of a disaster or a crisis ... that's not the time to be figuring it out. We need to be doing it now and that's the essence of Vibrant Response."
The training will include urban and aerial search and rescue missions, simulated decontamination operations, airlift, medical training and many other events.
(Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, Army North Public Affairs Office, contributed to this story)