Fort Campbell will conduct a full-scale exercise Aug. 17-18 to test the installation’s emergency response and recovery abilities in a realistic threat scenario.
“These exercises are a good external assessment of our tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Chief Keith Shumate, Installation Provost Marshal Office. “They give us an unbiased look at how effective our training and rehearsals have been and help us identify potential systemic flaws in our response processes.”
Personnel from across U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will be involved in the exercise, which marks the first one conducted on post since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“It just makes sure everybody is working together and understands the plan,” said Jay Fangman, emergency management specialist. “You actually get people and equipment moving, and you’re working with other organizations. You can sit down and do a tabletop exercise where everybody in the room talks it, but until you get out there and do it some of the problems don’t make themselves evident.”
Events like this full-scale exercise create confidence within the team at Fort Campbell, Shumate said.
“Teamwork is the only way we succeed,” he said. “The teamwork and trust built during training and rehearsals is crucial to our success. You do not want the first time you need to work together to be when an incident occurs."
The installation typically runs full-scale exercises annually to comply with Army regulations, but Fangman said responding to the COVID-19 pandemic fulfilled the requirements in 2020.
“COVID-19 was one of those situations with hazards that we rarely exercise,” he said. “I think we learned a lot of public health lessons with the COVID-19 pandemic but being able to get back to the more traditional threats and hazards, I think it’s good.”
Specific details on the scenario and timeframe have not been released to make sure emergency response preparedness is properly tested, but the community should experience minimal disruption.
“We may have some roads blocked off where you’ll have to take detours, and there will be some increased police, fire and EMS presence at two different locations around the installation,” Fangman said. “The orange digital signs that the Fort Campbell Directorate of Emergency Services puts up to direct traffic, we’re also going to have those at the exercise locations with messaging on it so people driving by understand what’s going on.”
Along with the initial law enforcement response to the attack, the exercise will involve patient transport, medical treatment, damage assessment, recovery planning, a press conference and more. Almost all of the garrison’s directorates are participating, with support from key division elements.
“Every organization brings a piece of the puzzle, so they all have their own role but they also have to coordinate and work together,” Fangman said. “One organization might be the lead for this function but they could be supported by three or four others, so we pull together everybody that we need and exercise how we’d respond in a real situation.”
Following every exercise, not just the full-scale exercises, thorough in-depth after-action reports are conducted to identify the strengths that should be sustained and weaknesses that require improvement, Shumate said.
“The AARs are used to drive training decisions and internal – small scale exercise – planning,” he said.
Making sure each agency is well-prepared for crisis scenarios ultimately works to ensure the division’s mission readiness, Fangman said.
“Our mission is to support the training and deployment of the tenant units on Fort Campbell, one aspect of that is providing a safe and secure environment in order to do those mission-essential functions,” he said. “This is practice on how we keep ourselves safe and respond to threats and hazards.”