--- A disgruntled civilian employee held more than 10 workers hostage and dozens of emergency responders and explosive ordnance disposal personnel at bay during a more than two-hour standoff. ---
This dramatic scenario during Aberdeen Proving Ground's Raven Guardian Exercise tested all aspects of the installation's ability to respond to a hostage/barricade negotiation event, Aug. 20.
According to APG Garrison Commander Col. James E. Davis, annual exercises help ensure Team APG's emergency response plans remain sharp and evolve as needed.
"Recent events across the nation are a reminder that we must remain vigilant about protecting every member of our workforce, as well as our installation residents," he said.
"An exercise of this nature helps us gauge our ability to respond to an emergency, should one happen. We can identify areas in which we excel and areas we have room for growth. In the end, being prepared may help prevent events like this, and ultimately, save lives."
Post workers were notified a day earlier of plans to raise the threat level to Force Protection Condition "DELTA" during the exercise and that gate activities and access to the installation would be affected.
Garrison police and K-9 officers, firefighters and paramedics from the Directorate of Emergency Services, as well as operations personnel from the directorates of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; Plans, Analysis, Integration and Operations; and medical personnel from Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic mobilized in various areas, including the installation Emergency Operations Center, to respond to the possible mass casualty incident.
Later, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device sighting drew Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Soldiers from the 20th CBRNE Command. The elaborate response included two triage locations where KUSAHC medics and DES paramedics tended to casualties.
The need for public information during an emergency was not overlooked. An information center was set up, manned by public affairs representatives from across the installation, followed by a staged press conference at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center, during which APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford took questions from and provided updates to additional public affairs personnel roll-playing as members of the media.
On the ground at the tactical command post, where emergency responders gathered near the barricaded building, Lt. Joel Holdford, DES chief of police, serving as incident commander, received regular updates on the situation from the EOC and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) personnel.
Updates were non-stop and ever-changing and included reports of the hostage-taker's identity, the number of hostages and where they were being held, possible explosives, and more. Holdford used the information to deploy his resources and update negotiators. Eventually, the DES Special Reaction Team (SRT) made entry, rescued the hostage, neutralized one hostage-taker and secured the other into custody.
Participants from responders to volunteer "hostages" said they appreciated the relevancy of the exercise.
"It seems like it happens fast, but these things take time," said Deputy Fire Chief Adam Ballard while receiving updates from the EOC. "Right now, we're planning based on the information we have. Commanders have to look at all aspects while reacting to this information: from available personnel and equipment and where to set up triage areas once it's safe for our guys to enter the building, to food and water for the responders as well as the hostages."
Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Carstens of the 20th CBRNE Command was on hand to evaluate the EOD response team members who were led by Staff Sgt. Kevin Averre.
"This is an actual response team," he said, noting that members arrived in the same type of response vehicle in real-world incidents.
"Our team leaders have a lot of training," he said. "How deeply we get involved depends on the situation, but we're a fully functional EOD entity. Our response teams are known by emergency responders who depend on us."
Hostages were transported to the triage areas in the SRT Armored Rescue Vehicle.
One "injured hostage," Mark Griep, arrived in handcuffs and under police escort.
"I was reaching into my pockets; they didn't like that," he said of SRT team members, adding that he was told he'd be released once he was cleared of any involvement in the incident.
Three other "suspects" were triaged in a separate area.
"All three are categorized as perpetrators," said DES paramedic J. Williams, adding that it is normal to set a separate triage area for suspects.
Sgt. 1st Class Lakeisha Hassell served as the KUSAHC Triage NCOIC. She led the group of KUSAHC medics who were evaluated by Maj. Slavomir Bilinski, KUSAHC emergency medical director. Bilinski said the group performed well and benefited from the training.
"The value is that this is fantastic training for our Soldiers," he said. "We only get better from this and that's the beauty of the whole thing. We live to train and we're honored to serve."
Holdford said that while the After Action Review will determine what areas need attention, overall, he thought it was "a very good exercise" that emphasized real-world intensity.
"During these types of situations there's a great amount of information you have to take in in a short period of time," he said. "And then you have to update your staff, do risk assessments and a number of other things before you can establish the best course of action.
"I think we did well, but I also think we'll do better tomorrow," he said. "If you did everything perfect, it wasn't a very good exercise."
After the exercise, Davis thanked personnel from the garrison, tenant organizations, and the public for their participation and support.
"The entire staff showed exterme professionalism and our emergency responders did an amazing job."