Military leaders put final touches on catastrophic incident exercise during calm before storm
July 27, 2012
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - With less than 24 hours until the notional detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in a major Midwestern city, military exercise specialists were putting the final touches on a national catastrophic incident exercise that will test more than 9,000 service members and civilians in 11 training locations and airfields spread across 5,000 square miles in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.
Exercise control specialists from U.S. Army North made final preparations July 25 for Vibrant Response 13, a major field exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by Army North. Service members and civilians from the military and other federal agencies throughout the country are training to respond in the event of a catastrophic domestic incident.
"There's always one more thing to do, and one more detail to get right, before you can exercise any large operation," said Clark Wigley, joint exercise planner, Army North. "And there are always things that come up at the last minute that you haven't thought of that you have to deal with."
As an example, Wigley said one of the trucks hauling simulation equipment to Indiana didn't have the proper hydraulic lift, and that held up delivery of the equipment by a day.
The major issues have all been solved, Wigley said, though exercise officials were still managing ongoing logistics support, coordination of space availability and final training for exercise support personnel such as observer/controller/trainers.
For 1st Lt. Sonia Villarreal, a native of San Antonio who worked at last year's exercise, this year is more hectic as she serves as the "battle captain," the operations manager in the exercise control group.
"I was here last year as the displaced civilian manager," Villarreal said. "Operations are a little overwhelming, but it's a learning process and good experience for a junior officer."
Members of the Indiana National Guard were also making final arrangements before the start of the exercise.
"We have been preparing for Vibrant Response for several months," said Maj. Anthony Gill, exercise control officer-in-charge, Joint Task Force -- 38, Indiana National Guard. "We rehearsed everything from setting up tents to refining our operational tempo. We are ready. Today, we have been finishing integrating some of our simulation equipment with our tactical network so that it functions like the Army's force-tracking system."
With the clock ticking down and final arrangements made for smoke pots, mannequins, role-players, training venues, vehicle and equipment staging, and all the other details that make up large military exercises, the exercise control specialists were prepared for the next day's kickoff.
"We're ready to rock, no issues," said Gary Robert Cheesebrew, operations center manager, Army North.
Vibrant Response 13 is the second confirmation exercise of the nation's new Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force, known as the "DCRF" -- pronounced "dee-surf." VR13 is preceded by Ardent Sentry and followed by Vigilant Shield. Each exercise encompasses different potential scenarios, such as hurricanes and even homeland invasion. Joint Task Force -- Civil Support, based at Fort Eustis, Va., is the command and control element for the response force.