By James BrooksMay 14, 2018
VICENZA, Italy (May 14, 2018) - An international situation in Europe triggers the deployment of 173rd Airborne Brigade to the global hot spot. But a small terrorist organization is intent on attacking U.S. Soldiers during their deployment from Italy. What are the repercussions of an attack on USAG Italy whose primary mission is to get 173rd Airborne Brigade where it needs to go when ordered?
That was the scenario of a full-scale exercise held May 9 at U.S. Army Garrison Italy facilities at Caserma Ederle, Caserma Del Din and Camp Darby. Though the deployment of 173rd was notional - meaning paratroopers were not actually readying gear for combat - garrison directorates were going through the typical processes and procedures to get the brigade where it needed to go, on time. That's when a simulated terrorist attack struck.
"The exercise scenario was very well developed with greater complexity by including a notional deployment of 173rd Airborne Brigade. The requirement to activate the garrison's emergency operations center and respond to a terrorist attack while actively managing a timed deployment cycle provided unique learning opportunities and greatly enhanced the training event," said Sam Barton, exercise coordinator, U.S. Army Installation Management Command Europe.
During the full-scale exercise, the garrison faced an attack by terrorists driving cars filled with explosives at two of their facilities, Caserma Del Din and Camp Darby, located hundreds of miles apart. At each location, first responders had to quickly assess the situation, take care of the injured and dead, and most important, ensure that deployment of the 173rd continued - uninterrupted.
For all of this to happen, the support and cooperation of Italian workers, local agencies and emergency responders was required.
"Today's exercise is also about strengthening our ability to work together with our Italian partners when a crisis strikes," said Col. Erik M. Berdy, commander, USAG Italy, during the event. "Exercises such as Lion Response help us build partnership and improve our own step-by-step procedures. There is an old saying 'you can't be trading business cards in a crisis'. You need to have trust and working relationships before a crisis happens. This exercise gives everyone greater ability to improve the way we work together."
The garrison's relationship with its host nation partners was highlighted by the exercise observers in an after-action review (AAR) that took place the following day.
"One of the strengths we saw was law enforcement and host nation coordination," said Barton. "USAG Italy Director of Emergency Services has conducted extensive training and coordination with Italian counterparts in order to establish better relationships and understanding of shared responsibilities. I recommend the garrison continues to capitalize on all opportunities that coordinate efforts and resources."
During the exercise, a troop diversion was ordered to increase the security posture of the garrison because of simulated reports of an increasing terrorist threat and 173rd Airborne Brigade deployment.
"This was another strength we saw during the exercise. The Soldiers came from tenant commands and they clearly understood their duties and responsibilities for security during the exercise. They demonstrated a strong understanding of the rules of engagement and use of force. I recommend continued troop diversion training with tenant commands and incorporate them into exercises," said Barton.
According to Sgt. Ethan McCallister, who is assigned to 173d Brigade Support Battalion and led the troop diversion during the exercise, their efforts were all part of putting together what they were trained to do.
"Our urban training, what the Army trains us to do every time we go into the field, is what made us effective. I thought the scenario really showed how U.S.-Italian partnership works. When the 'terrorist attack' occurred, our job was to respond quickly and protect the first responders. We were synched with the Italian Carabinieri the entire time," said McCallister.
McCallister was recognized for his outstanding work in the after action review.
"He displayed outstanding knowledge of his duties and responsibilities. He also provided outstanding observations and recommendations to the on-scene leaders," said Barton.
According to Barton, garrisons only go through full scale exercises every two years because of the amount of work involved preparing for them. This training cycle allows for further training but also allows USAG Italy garrison personnel to go out and assess other full-scale exercises taking place in other locations. The cycle also allows for being better prepared if a real crisis hits.
"By conducting an exercise like this, we can understand what resources we need to be more ready and prepared. One thing I hope those involved learned: we probably don't have all the equipment we'd like to have. This gives us the opportunity to understand what we need and prioritize what will make us more ready," said Berdy.