By Spc. Matthew Ahlfs
704th Chemical CompanyARDEN HILLS, Minn. -Vibrant Response is an annual exercise hosted around the Indianapolis area designed to simulate a nuclear catastrophe. Approximately 5,500 individuals participated in the exercise in all, representing the Army Reserve, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, National Technical, Nuclear Forensics, FBI and other military and civilian members from the Department of Defense. Civilian role-players acted out the role of victims and casualties.One of the Army Reserve units involved was the 704th Chemical Company, from Arden Hills and Cambridge, Minnesota. They participated in the exercise from July 29 to Aug. 11, with the first two days consisting of convoy travel from their home station.Once their mission kicked off at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, the chaotic environment thrust the chemical Soldiers into a non-stop training environment.During the first mission, a recon team from the 704th Chem. Co. recovered victims from the nuclear attack site. Soldiers had to wear a Level C chemical suit during this extraction phase. They searched for casualties throughout the area, using gator carts to transport them from the hazardous scene. The second mission forced Solders to respond to an unknown hazardous leak in several buildings creating health concerns for citizens in the area. Obstacles blocked the Soldiers' way as they moved through to rescue citizens. Once rescued, casualties were brought to a mass casualty decontamination (MCD) line. More obstacles made this part of the mission further challenging. As a result, Soldiers had to get creative in setting up the treatment site."The actions of the Soldiers of the recon platoon exhibits their hard work and dedication to the mission, which shows their ability to rapidly deploy and properly assist the citizens of the United States of America in any situation they may be asked to respond," said Spc. Kyle Spree, a recon operations team leader.
Soldiers assigned to the "decon" portion of the mission decontaminated citizens and Soldiers affected by the nuclear fallout either as a result of the attack or in response to the mission.In order to accomplish this, they had to undress, wash and rinse, monitor and redress their patients. Ultimately, the goal was to make sure casualties were completely free of contaminates. If casualties were still contaminated after this phase, they would be processed through the wash and rinse areas again. Once completely decontaminated, casualties were helped back into new clothes designed to protect their clean bodies.On the last day of missions, the 704th Chemical Company processed nearly 400 civilian casualties through their MCD line. This was the largest number of casualties ever processed during Vibrant Response. Teamwork and determination helped lift the spirits of the Soldiers when performing their duties on mission days."The success of the 704th on the final mission day truly exhibited that they are ready to assume the mission," said 1st Lt. Peter Jackson, commander of the 704th Chem. Co.
Even though this was just a training scenario, the 704th treated it as a real-life mission. Once the training was finished and the unit packed up its gear, Soldiers returned home better equipped to respond to the nation's needs.