WASHINGTON -- Soldiers and civilian first responders from the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington participated in Capital Shield 2017 at Lorton Youth Detention Center, Lorton, Virginia, and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, from Sept. 7-8.
The annual training exercise, hosted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, brought federal, state and public agencies together in a realistic training environment. The event allowed agencies with uniquely different capabilities the opportunity to work together in response to a catastrophic event.
"It is not a matter of if an emergency will occur, but when it will occur," said Cory Wright, Exercises Branch Chief with Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington and director of Capital Shield 2017. "Emergencies are inevitable events. It is important for responders to establish and understand what each agencies' capabilities and responsibilities will be when responding to an emergency within the National Capital Region."
During the event, participants responded to a variety of scenarios, including collapsed structures, mass casualty rescue, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) incidents, law enforcement tactical responses and hostage negotiations.
The first day of Combined Operations field exercises was held at Lorton Youth Detention Center on Sept. 7. The exercise was dedicated to providing Defense Support to Civil Authorities via technical rescue operations, mass casualty rescue, and response to contact with CBRNE threats while operating under the Incident Command System.
"Today, Soldiers are being evaluated on their ability extract an unknown number of personnel from a collapsed building," said 1st Lt. David Cottrill, officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion. "Our unit was responsible for locating casualties and providing the proper rescue tactics."
Throughout the day, Soldiers donned in mission-oriented protective posture gear tested the environment for chemical threats and patrolled the rubble of the simulated collapsed structures to locate and render aid to "victims," played by Soldiers placed among the broken concrete pieces.
After being rescued, injured personnel were taken to a decontamination area where Soldiers were evaluated on the decontamination process and ability to apply appropriate life-sustaining aid.
"The decontamination, medical treatment, as well as search and rescue have worked great together," said Cottrill. "They have been very effective in providing triage to as many personnel as possible. The other elements out here such as the D.C. Fire and Rescue are very professional resources -- they have made it very easy for all of us to fall in sync with each other."
The event also required Soldiers to search a dilapidated training building for casualties.
Participants maneuvered into confined areas of the building with tools to remove obstructions, such as large boulders, to safely recover victims trapped in the destruction.
"This event is the culmination of a year of ongoing training events," said Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard Brooks, with the 12th Aviation Battalion. "We're here to conduct a validation exercise to ensure our Soldiers have and maintain the skills needed to conduct rescue missions in very similar conditions."
The Soldiers were evaluated by members of the Regional Emergency All-Climate Training team. REACT is one of the premier training and exercise facilities for emergency and disaster response in the country.
"Working with the REACT team and integrating the other agencies has been a great benefit," said Brooks. "I am very proud of the work the Soldiers have done and how they have performed. This is an outstanding unit and I couldn't be happier."
The second day of Combined Operations Capital Shield 2017 took place at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital on Sept. 8. The focus of this event was on the Soldiers' ability to respond during a mass casualty, CBRN incident and active shooter incident.
"This location was selected because we know incidences can happen in any location and the hospitals allow us to train in a realistic environment," said John Lease, Special Reaction Team program manager with Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. "It is important to make sure that we run an exercise that isn't just a response to a typical incident. We want to make sure we are going beyond that and also training for planned and calculated forms of attack, such as hostage and terrorist acts."
The exercise evaluated joint operations, techniques, procedures and command relationships to ensure that government agencies are prepared to work together in the event of an emergency.
Soldiers arrived at the hospital in helicopters. Upon landing, they met with civilian authorities and were informed of the details surrounding the scenario.
The scenario involved three individuals overseeing a hostage situation. These individuals were confined to one pavilion of the hospital by local authorities. One of the individuals "killed" by local police, however, was outfitted in an explosive vest and still posed a threat.
The K9 and Explosive Ordinance Disposal special reaction teams worked together to develop a plan to safely locate and contain any threats and safely recover hostages.
"With crisis response we want to have an all hazard asset approach," said Lease. "We want to be prepared and equipped to handle any threat that may arise."
Working together, Soldiers were able to effectively subdue the individuals and dispose of the simulated explosive.
Capital Shield 2017 was a successful event and provide beneficial to all of the organizations that participated.
"It's absolutely critical that we train together in exercises like Capital Shield so that we are ready and able to provide a full force effort when saving lives," said Wright. "This was a successful training event and I think that everyone involved gained from the experience."
Soldiers also benefited from the training event.
"The training today was amazing," said Sgt. Ryan Clark, a firefighter with 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company. "This exercise has been the best I have been a part of, it went far beyond my expectations. It threw a lot at us and allowed us to build on prior training exercises."
The U.S. Army Military District of Washington serves as the Army Forces Component and core staff element of Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, which conducts operations that deter, prevent and respond to threats aimed at the National Capital Region. The U.S. Army Military District of Washington also conducts world-class ceremonial musical and special events in support of our nation's leadership.