Mud, rain and rubble doesn't stop Capital Shield 12 warriors
October 28, 2011
By Jim Dresbach
Companies, battalions and individual Soldiers from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall participated in Exercise Capital Shield 12, a regional training exercise conducted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington.
The four-day exercise from Oct. 17-20 was a readiness test for civilian emergency teams in unison with military detachments, including 12th Aviation Battalion, JBM-HH's own 947th MP Detachment and the 911th U.S. Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company at the old Fairfax County Youth Detention Center. Throughout the Capital Shield exercise, four simultaneous casualty sites were constructed. Another building was reduced to rubble. Victims were inserted inside fallen stone and cracked cement. The urban disaster recovery sites ranged from a damaged hospital to a crippled building filled with asbestos and hazardous materials to a structure which received damage from a hurricane, followed by a terrorist attack. Soldiers, first responders and evacuation teams then worked through Oct. 19 overcast skies and periods of rain to quickly clear and secure safe passages for colleagues to safely enter and exit the faux disaster areas.
The bulk of on-site JBM-HH personnel, including The Old Guard's Charlie Company, volunteered as victims inside the make-shift disaster areas.
"This is a good thing," The Old Guard's Sgt. Michael Ververs said of the readiness operation. "I know we [the Soldiers] don't get to do too much -- we're just acting as victims -- but the civilians get a lot out of this."
The mission was to achieve a seamless succession of steps to get the wounded from harm's way to area hospitals, but the weather forecast changed those plans. By 11:35 a.m., 12th Aviation Battalion and UH60 Black Hawk helicopter maneuvers were suspended due to the inclement weather. The decision to use bus-only evacuations to medical facilities was made just before noon.
"We were supposed to be evacuated to one of the local hospitals and they were to react to the flood of patients, but because of the weather we cannot be evacuated [via helicopter]," said TOG volunteer victim Spc. Erika Williams.
At the mass-rubble site, which was being portrayed as a District of Columbia hospital that had witnessed an explosion, JBM-HH personnel played an important part in the search and recovery drill. Teaming with the Army Corps of Engineers, structural experts and 911th, Staff Sgt. Alan Cacho of the 947th MPs and his Belgian malinois K9 named Chytea waited to be briefed outside the rubble of twisted metal and crushed concrete.
"She is a search and rescue dog; our main mission is to find live victims," said Cacho. "She's been doing this for over a year, and she's pretty good."
During an afternoon tour, JFHQ-NCR and MDW Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington took two dozen VIPs through the mud and water puddles to visit the disaster sites. Linnington pointed out one of the advantages of Exercise Capital Shield is that young people receive an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment regularly used in the military or emergency responder work. After getting a taste of the trade, they either enlist in the service or create a career in emergency medical service work.
"Here, these kids are getting the training, and they are falling in love with the work," Linnington said. "That is a big benefit to us."
As for the Capital Shield 12 exercise, Linnington was pleased with the results and the relationship between military and civilian emergency agencies.
"It is important to improve our readiness and solidify our communications with the area's various emergency partners," he said. "That's what Cap Shield is all about. We have lots of emergency partners participating this year, and it is growing every year. It's becoming more complex and more difficult, and with that, our readiness improves."
During the three-day exercise, 38 Department of Defense participants teamed with 28 local partners and hospitals to provide civic and military training for firefighters, anti-hazardous material and triage teams.
"This is training, and I am all for helping and assisting in any type of exercise," JBM-HH's Williams said. "This is part of leadership. Even though I'm not one of the big guys, [participating] it's part of leadership. This is one team, one fight -- no matter which branch."