FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 7, 2013) -- Fort Rucker is preparing to test its limits during the all-hazards exercise March 13.

The exercise is designed to keep the installation vigilant against dangers that range from weather disasters to active shooters on post, but the training March 13 will focus on anti-terrorism, according to Mike Whittaker, installation anti-terrorism officer.

"On the day of the physical portion of the exercise, the boots-on-the-ground, there will be a mass-casualty caused by a chemical event," he said. "There will also be a simulated armed assault, and people are going to hear gunshots [if they are in the area], so we want people to be prepared for that and not get into a panic."

Throughout the exercise, there will be a simulated chemical released on the installation as if there were a terrorist operation on post, and it's up to installation officials and first responders to deal with whatever situation comes about, said Whittaker.

"Our different factions on post have to come together and do their jobs," he said. "We have to use what we have like medevac and things like that, depending on how many [simulated] injuries are caused by the attack."

The different agencies on Fort Rucker will need to work together to figure out what type of operation to set up and what course of action to take, said Whittaker.

"They must figure out what it is they must do to respond to the attack," he said. "What type of vans do they need to bring in or what kind of outfits do they need to be wearing? Initially there may be reports of an accident, so the [military police] will report to the accident, but from the accident site there may be a chemical plume, and it's up to them to figure out what to do next.

"While all this is going on, they might get a call from somewhere else where there were reports of gunshots fired," he added. "We're going to spread them out as thin as we can, which is the point of this exercise -- to test our limits."

The exercise is also meant to test the different agencies' memorandums of understanding and agreements with Fort Rucker's off-post counterparts.

"After the first response, we will bring in external agencies; police departments, fire departments and so on as role players to make it more realistic," said Whittaker. "This also helps the outside agencies see what we're doing and work with us to help us make it better."

The exact time and place of the exercise will not be known until the day of, and the reason for that is because the first responders to the scene must respond with no prior knowledge of the incident to make the exercise as real as possible, said the anti-terrorism officer.

Although people on the installation won't know when the exercise will take place, they should listen for the Giant Voice for instruction when the exercise begins, and Whittaker suggests they practice their specific organization's standards of procedure when that happens.

"People need to do what their office SOPs tell them to do," he said. "If there is an active shooter or intruder, what is your office procedure for that? Don't try to go out and rubberneck, and if you see smoke coming from somewhere, that's probably not the best place to go."

People in the different organizations and offices on the installation should remain where they are and go over their own plans, regardless of whether or not they are part of the exercise, he added.

There will be some traffic delays during the exercise and signs will be posted at the gates to let people know that an exercise is in progress. People should plan ahead to not be caught in a situation where they are late because of the training.

"If you know you have an appointment at a certain time and you wait until five minutes before to come to it, then shame on you," said Whittaker.

He also said that the gates will be closed briefly and asked that people be patient if they are caught waiting.

"The gate closing should last about three minutes maximum. The reason we close the gates is because if there was an actual incident on post, the post would be closed until we were given the all clear by MPs," he said. "We have to close the gates just to prove that we can, and if everyone does their part, everything will go smoothly."

One of the main things the exercise is meant to fight, besides terrorism and attacks, is a threat that can hurt the installation from within -- complacency.

"Nothing has ever happened here, and that's true to a point, but we're in a strange time right now," he said. "People have to get off their complacency and take part -- this is not a joke. Some think that things can't happen here, but we need to be ready if something does."

Page last updated Fri March 8th, 2013 at 11:12