By Lt. Col. John M. Riley, United States Army, Pacific Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives Division ChiefMay 26, 2009
CAMP ZAMA, Japan - A vehicle-borne explosive device detonates outside of a family high-rise apartment followed by the release of an unknown chemical compound.
The result of the explosion is an unknown number of casualties and the chance that the chemical could spread, causing more damage and compromising the safety of those in the area.
That scenario kicked off the annual Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high yield Explosives (CBRNE) and Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) situational training exercise here May 20.
"This exercise is a high point after many years of work on the part of USARPAC to continually improve installation preparedness to respond to a difficult CBRNE incident," said Sgt. Maj. Luis Rivera, U.S. Army, Pacific CBRNE Division sergeant major and deputy exercise director. "We have finally brought together the different specialties of the Protection Directorate and paired them with (Installation Management Command-Pacific) to provide the garrison with a challenging exercise that tests a wide range of functions."
The day-long exercise was the culmination of almost a year of planning led by the CBRNE Division of USARPAC and supported by Observer/Controllers from other elements of the Operational Protection Directorate, to include the Provost Marshal Division and the AT/FP Division, as well as IMCOM-Pacific
While testing the installation's ability to respond to a threat and increase force protection measures, Military Police, Federal Fire, Medical Command and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal responders were all provided with challenging situations to exercise their part in an integrated response.
"This is a good opportunity to see how our units respond to a catastrophic event," said Spc. Scott Starnes, United States Army, Japan military policeman.
One element that added realism to the exercise and increased stress for the first responders was the participation of role players from Zama Middle School, Zama American High School, and military family members living on Camp Zama, said Rivera.
The students, teachers, and family members served as "casualties" resulting from both the vehicle blast and the chemical release giving those responding the opportunity to assess, treat, decontaminate and process incident victims.
This is a great opportunity to help the first responders become more proficient at their duties in case they have to respond to a real incident in the future, said Desean Root, 7th grade student from Zama Middle School. "I'm glad to help out."
In addition to addressing the major incident on Camp Zama, the Combined Operations Center of USAR-J had to process separate incidents at Sagami Hare Housing Area, Yokohama North Dock, Sagami Depot and Hardy Barracks in Tokyo.
The complex scenario allowed the integrated staff to process reports from multiple sites and conduct planning for force protection actions throughout Japan, added Rivera.
Following the exercise, the installation staff received an informal outbriefing, highlighting successful areas and pointing out those needing corrective actions.
In the coming weeks, USARPAC will provide USAG-J with a formal After Action Report that will help the staff identify shortcomings and plan future training and resourcing to increase the safety and security of U.S. military personnel, civilians and family members working and living in Japan.
Rivera said that those who took part in the exercise can be proud of their outstanding teamwork and success in responding to a complex scenario and meeting their exercise objectives.