By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 15, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As the giant voice rang out over Fort Rucker, the installation's first responders prepared to respond to an incident to test their ability to react to worst-case scenario at a moment's notice.
In conjunction with Antiterrorism Awareness Month, Fort Rucker held its annual force protection exercise Sept. 8 at Veterans Park, where multiple agencies had to work together to respond to a simulated attack with multiple casualties, according to Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency manager.
The scenario for this year's exercise was set during a small ceremony at Veterans Park, where approximately 20 people were on hand, said the emergency manager.
"During the simulated event, there was a vehicle-borne explosive device that went off resulting in about 20 casualties," said Worsham. "We had Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety fire and law enforcement officers and first responders on the scene, and emergency medical services all responding to the scene."
The scenario was meant to test the first responders' ability to react in any situation since none of the responders were aware of what the scenario might be before they arrived on scene.
"This helps our first responders to know what to expect when they get to a site," said the emergency manager. "Every instance site is basically controlled mass chaos because there are no two incidents that are going to be the same."
The exercise was also meant to test the response and teamwork between agencies, both internal and external, said Worsham. Some outside agencies involved were the Coffee County EMA, evaluators from the Enterprise Fire Department, Enterprise Police Department, Coffee County Sheriffs Department and the Dale County Sheriffs Department.
As the exercise got under way, standard protocols were put into place, such as shutting down access points to the installation, but only briefly as not to hinder the daily mission of the post, he said.
"If this incident had been real, we would have shut down all of the gates," he said. "We scaled it down to the point (where) it wouldn't hinder the mission of Fort Rucker, but it was enough to where we were able to let first responders actually come and control the scene, and it gave them a chance to actually practice their protocols, like evacuation of the wounded and setting up a controlled investigation site."
After the exercise was complete, the work was far from over, said the emergency manager.
"After everything is said and done, we move into the after-action review," he said. "During this portion we will find out what went well and what we need to improve on."
In the weeks following the exercise, Worsham will review and put together a report for the garrison commander and Installation Management Command that will detail everything that was implemented from the planning stage to execution.
Although there is a lot of work involved, it's all meant to help keep the installation as safe as possible because some things can't be taught without hands-on training, said the emergency manager.
"Whenever you go into one of these exercises, you're going into the unknown -- no two incidents are the same," he said. "There are different variables with different people and locations. While this particular scenario was out in the open, if we would have brought this in closer to buildings, we would have brought in different personnel, such as structural engineers to make sure that everything was OK.
"This teaches us adaptability because there are so many different variables in the real world," Worsham continued. "There's the old saying, 'If you practice like you would fight, then you're going to fight like you practiced,' so you just keep doing these things over and over to where it starts becoming second nature. This a valuable training tool to continue to stay proficient."