By Fort Riley Public Affairs StaffJuly 25, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- On July 11 the Fort Riley Directorate of Emergency Services in conjunction with community partners from Junction City, Manhattan, Riley County, Geary County, Kansas Highway Patrol, Pottawatomie County and the Federal Bureau of Investigations participated in Fort Riley's annual full-scale exercise.
"Each year we annually test all our emergency responders and all our response and recovery elements of the installation," said Chris Hallenbeck, Fort Riley emergency management coordinator. "Throughout the year they are doing their own training. This is bringing them all together to test it on an overall spectrum."
The simulated attack revolved around a terroristic type of event at Grant Gate that led to the suspect escaping with a hostage. This led investigators and explosive teams to the suspect's manufacturing location.
Hallenbeck said the important aspect of the training was the cooperation building among the community partners.
"It's very important to build that, especially beforehand," he said. "The last thing you want to do is have an incident with everybody showing up to respond and not having those connections -- you don't understand everyone's capabilities. That's why we always include our partners when we are doing these exercises."
GRANT GATE ACP
Once the scenario started, the Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, assumed duty as access control guards. Several vehicles entered normally before a red pickup approached the gate.
The guards proceeded to stop the vehicle and inspect it, per their training. Suddenly, a liquid substance started spraying from a container in the bed of the pickup initialing a chemical attack on Fort Riley.
After reacting to the attack the Soldiers entered a tactical pause to discuss what happened and to simulate a fire fight at the ACP, causing several injuries.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Donaz, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., was the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Soldiers. He stated that the training was a great reminder that threats are as real at home as much as they are overseas.
"We have to take it as serious as everything else," Donaz said. "You have your insider threats and you have the threats from outside. It's all the same to me, but the Soldiers look at it differently. They don't see the aspects of getting the tactics, techniques and procedures here training on Fort Riley and taking them overseas. It's all the same concept.
"If they do get deployed anywhere that they do take it seriously," he added. "Everything is well rehearsed before you go on a deployment. For me, being deployed several times, it's a little different."
The simulated attack is a way for the Soldiers to take their training to another level Donaz said.
"I hope it will be a learning experience," he said. "I know it's role-playing but it's an experience and that's why you train as you fight."
After the initial attack was complete the guards prepared for the second phase -- the response.
The call went out that there had been an incident at the gate involving an unidentified chemical and Soldiers were injured.
Elements from Fort Riley Fire Department stopped on Huebner Road to don protective gear before two members entered the hot zone. Those two firefighters were sent in to evaluate the scene and determine the number and severity of injuries of the patients.
One of the role-players, who was a bystander driving on post, was able to walk off of the scene with the firefighters to the decontamination area that was established near the truck.
Crews worked to get the Soldiers medical attention as soon as possible and they were decontaminated before being transported to Irwin Army Community Hospital.
While this scene was still unfolding, the second scenario was beginning to take shape near Moon Lake.
MOON LAKE HOSTAGE STANDOFF
The exercise continued as the suspect took hostages and fled Grant Gate.
When the suspect's vehicle was spotted at the far end of Moon Lake, two Fort Riley game wardens blocked the circular road coming and going.
They watched with binoculars from behind the open doors of their unmarked pickup trucks. Eventually, one of the game wardens moved to the back and his position was replaced by Fort Riley Police.
As the suspect blocked the windows of the car with blankets or towels, the Fort Riley Police held their position and reported any movement they observed.
For more than an hour the passenger side front door was open and a leg could be observed hanging out. The MPs had reason to believe a second person, possibly a child, was in the back seat.
More than an hour passed and little movement was seen from the suspect's vehicle. Eventually the vehicle moved, first up to a shady spot, then back down.
With every move the officers kept their binoculars trained on the vehicle. After shifting position a few times, the car started slowly driving through the open field. The game wardens and military police moved in blocking the vehicle's path.
Officers leapt from their vehicles and drew down on the car yelling commands to the driver and the passenger to get out of the car. The suspect and one hostage were taken out of the vehicle without incident.
With the adults secured, a game warden removed a large child dummy from the backseat. He took the child to a safe location and performed a quick medical check before safely securing him in the front seat of his truck.
The collaboration between the game wardens and the MPs showcased the need for local authorities to work hand-in-hand with military personnel in highly charged, delicate, real-life scenarios.
"The exercise is extremely important in my opinion, because it stresses the flexibility of what we can and can't do," Master Sgt. Rob Graber, Directorate of Emergency Services, said.
"It helps us learn lessons for when real world missions happen. How we can move forward, engage and work as a team to defeat whatever is going on."
While the standoff continued, two heavily armed MPs moved through the brush and trees taking a position that would allow them to move in quickly, if needed.
HOMEMADE EXPLOSIVES LAB
During the time the suspect was being detained at Moon Lake, a call went out for military police to investigate a possible disturbance in a building on McGlachlin Street.
Pvt. Jamille Stephan and Pvt. D'Entrée Clark, 116th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, responded to the threat by clearing the building room-by-room, weapons drawn. As the MPs rounded the corner near the old arms room, they realized there was much more at play than a disturbance.
Entrance was impossible due to red wires that were stretched across the entry to the barred, padlocked room. Inside the arms room were blue barrels of what looked to be chemicals and bottles of other liquids hanging from the walls, each connected by wiring. Across the room a table held various powders, aluminum foil, a surgical mask, a grinder and various other materials used to make homemade explosives. The MPs noticed the suspect's identification and Islamic State propaganda material littered the area.
They carefully backed out of the room to discuss the next action. It was decided to call for Fort Riley's Explosive Ordinance Disposal team.
Sgt. 1st Class Eliot Bray, 630th Explosive Ordnance Disposal, 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command explained that playing out a scenario like this one is important because it gives law enforcement and his EOD team the opportunity to work together to "see an accurate timeline and how we are going to work here -- especially in a continental United States environment where we have a lot more assets to protect," Bray said.
Because of the threat in the building, the EOD team waited for a tactical unit from the 97th MP Battalion to accompany them through the building to do a more thorough check of each room looking for boobytraps and hiding suspects.
"We do run into HME labs in Afghanistan and Iraq both, mainly Afghanistan" Bray said. "Some of the principles here are the same. We tend to have more freedom and more acceptable risks in Afghanistan than we have here," Bray said.
Once the hazard was isolated to the arms room, EOD suited up and prepared a plan on how to render the site safe. Unlike the other legs of the exercise, this phase was slow as the EOD team, led by Sgt. Jacob Wolford, also of 630th EOD, methodically checked every surface for a possible risk.
The table where MPs had noticed the suspect's ID earlier, was rigged with explosives. Wolford carefully crawled under the table to disarm the homemade device.
"Everything done here should be a whole lot more safety oriented for the (EOD) team. Where in Afghanistan, the safety is more on the unit we are out there supporting. Sometimes we have to work fast and that can be somewhat unsafe because you can't leave them out there getting shot out or rocketed," Bray said.
The exercise allowed the EOD team to teach law enforcement about HMEs while also honing their skills at home.
One-by-one Wolford and his team carefully taped grenade pins in place, cut wires, analyzed chemicals, surveyed for boobytraps and tested the air for chemical agents. Eventually the site was rendered safe.
As the day's events wound down, the final exercise put the incoming Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Shrader on the spot in front of the media.
A press conference held in the lobby of 1st Infantry Division Headquarters included mock reporters asking questions similar to what he might have been asked if the exercise had been real.
The press conference lasted about 10 minutes before it was shut down in the manner it would be had it not just been an exercise.