By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 13, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- In the morning April 5, the Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety receive a call about a suspicious package at the mail distribution center on post, and with the help of community partners, installation officials put boots on the ground to deal with the potential threat.
In response to the call, Fort Rucker DPS, including the police and fire departments, deployed officers, military working dogs and the hazardous material team, as well as contacted the Dothan Bomb Squad to aid in dealing with the package, according to Capt. Michael Simmons, DPS patrol captain.
The package was first identified by staff in the mail room at the distribution center when they noticed that the mailing and return address seemed suspicious, said Simmons. The package was sent to Fort Rucker, which was also listed as the return address, even though it originated from Colorado.
"The guys in the mail room ran the zip code from where it was originally mailed and that's when all the red flags went up," said the patrol captain. "When the call was received, we sent the police over to the location, and their job was to set up a traffic control point and evacuate the building and any other buildings that might be affected."
From there, once the area was cordoned off, Fort Rucker contacted the Dothan Bomb Squad to assist, and sent in explosives dogs to check out the package, as well as the surrounding areas for any additional threat, said Simmons.
"Once the bomb squad showed up, our canine units cleared a path for the bomb disposal unit to enter the building, and they went in and took an X-Ray of the package," he said. "They saw that there was no explosive in the package and that it wasn't putting off any radiation," but despite clearing the package of a potential explosive, the images of the interior of the package were inconclusive.
"They said it wasn't an explosive, but they couldn't definitively identify what was in the package, so from there, we called in the fire department in reference to any type of (potentially) hazardous material," Simmons added.
The Fort Rucker Fire Department responded with its HAZMAT unit and paired with the Dothan Bomb Squad to send in a team to get another X-Ray of the item, said Jay Evett, Fort Rucker fire chief.
The X-Ray images were still showing inconclusive results, which required the team to next open the package to determine the contents, said the fire chief. Upon opening the package, the contents revealed documents and random photographs that posed no threat.
Although the package turned out to be harmless, the scenario was a good opportunity for Fort Rucker to test its response to this type of situation, as well as test out its mutual aid agreements, said Evett.
"What this did was allow us to exercise mutual aid agreements with Houston County, coordinate our efforts with (the Directorate of Human Resources that runs the mail distribution center) and other various organizations," said the fire chief. "It allowed us to run through a lot of the notification processes that we do -- it was a very good impromptu exercise, and fortunately it turned out to be nothing of consequence and no one was hurt."
"There was great cooperation with the Dothan Bomb Squad, which is always the case," said Simmons. "If not for them, our bomb support would have to come from Fort Benning, Georgia, which would take a long time."
The mutual aid agreements with the surrounding communities allow for quicker response to situations that Fort Rucker might not be equipped to handle internally, and vice versa, added Evett.