Cavazos conducts response exercise

By Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsMay 16, 2024

A man crouches down on one knee in front of a woman sitting against the wall on the ground, one leg out and the other crossed underneath. A man ducks his head while sitting in a chair behind them.
Spc. Hayden Heinle, 178th Military Police Detachment, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, assesses the wounds of volunteers portraying gunshot victims during the annual full-scale response exercise May 7, 2024, at Fort Cavazos, Texas. (Photo Credit: Photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Fort Cavazos officials conducted a full-scale response exercise May 7-8 on post, focusing on the installation’s response in an active-shooter scenario. There were multiple simulated active-shooter incidents across the installation where emergency responders subdued and apprehended exercise role players posing as active shooters.

Part of the exercise took place at the Shoemaker Center where role players posing as active shooters were subdued by police.

Volunteers portraying gunshot victims with different levels of injuries were then triaged and taken to various area medical facilities for treatment.

Bob Adams, Directorate of Emergency Services deputy director, said the exercise was challenging, as the initial response to a large incident dispatches multiple resources in a short time span. He said it can be difficult to manage the flow of support to make sure resources are properly dispersed, but the DES team was prepared.

“Our DES team quickly responded in accordance with their training to contain the threat,” Adams said. “This enabled the installation to quickly transition to the recovery phase.”

The exercise not only tested the response of on-post agencies; but also off-post agencies including the Killeen Police and Fire Departments, as well as community medical facilities.

Adams said it is crucial to work with community partners and the exercise was a great opportunity to build on the already strong relationships and validate response protocol.

“Training on complex incident response scenarios increases our proficiency and interoperability,” he said. “This training helps to ensure that when an incident does occur, we will be ready to effectively respond and protect our communities.”

One of the Soldiers participating in the exercise at the Shoemaker Center was Spc. Hayden Heinle, 178th Military Police Detachment, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade.

“Overall, it was a very good experience,” he said. “It shows us, as a team, how we need to develop a cohesive bond between all departments. Normally we only operate law enforcement entities, but by bringing in other people like that — EMS, fire ... it just shows the importance of disciplined teams and cohesiveness.

“Bringing in outside agencies is always a good thing,” he added. “Everybody uses different lingo, different terms ... and by getting everyone involved, it shows the importance of being on the same page in a mass event like that.”

Lt. Col. Megan Williams, Fort Cavazos provost marshal, said the exercise was a great example of the great cooperation between Fort Cavazos and community emergency response teams in a high-stress situation.

“It’s something that we train up for, but this type of quick reaction is really essential for evaluation purposes, but more so for that honest look at ourselves about what we want to do to best protect our community, installation and the assets we have here,” she said.

The cooperation between Fort Cavazos and its surrounding community really shined throughout the exercise.

“We enjoy an outstanding partnership with our local off-post partners,” said Lee Stockland, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security director. “In fact, we received the Army Community Partnership Award in 2022 in recognition of our Central Texas Emergency Management Working Group partnership. The scenario for this year’s full-scale exercise required us to exercise multiple aspects of our existing community partnerships including Mutual Aid Agreements with the local fire departments, hospitals, emergency management services and the Killeen Independent School District.

“The scenario for this year’s full-scale exercise required each of these agencies to respond,” he continued. “It tested not only their internal plans, but also our collective ability to effectively communicate, respond, recover and restore normal installation operations as quickly as possible.”

Five people lay on a tarp while two people work together to lift up another person, one grabbing the by the armpits while the other grabs the legs.
Multiple medical agencies work together to transport volunteers portraying wounded gunshot victims to different medical facilities May 7, 2024, during the full-scale exercise at Fort Cavazos, Texas. (Photo Credit: Photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Stockland said due to the effective Emergency Management Training and Exercise program maintained by Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Emergency Manager Fred Corbin, the Emergency Operations Center staff was prepared to take on the challenges of the full-scale exercise.

“As a result, (U.S. Army Garrison)-Fort Cavazos has a well-trained EOC staff,” he said. “Planning for this year’s full-scale exercise included an external evaluation from Installation Management Command, our higher headquarters. Emergency management specialists from IMCOM HQs were instrumental in ensuring a well-planned and resourced full-scale exercise.

“The IMCOM HQs team included several experienced observers from other installations to assist us in truly seeing ourselves and then helped us identify areas for improvement in our emergency management program,” he explained.

Fort Cavazos leadership observed and also participated in the exercise, including Col. Lakicia Stokes, U.S. Army Garrison- Fort Cavazos commander.

“As I participated in and observed the full-scale exercise, I was impressed with the level of coordination and collaboration amongst our Fort Cavazos units and partner agencies on and off the installation, the effectiveness of our integrated communication systems, the adherence to established procedures, the deliberate action of our first responders and the overall readiness of our 'Team of Teams' to handle challenging scenarios,” she said.

The full-scale exercises, conducted each year, ensure the safety and security of Soldiers, civilians, contractors and their families by reinforcing the installation’s commitment to timely and effective response in a crisis.

“We have exercises to get better at responding to and recovering from emergencies,” Stokes said. “Full-scale exercises are crucial for any Army installation because they provide realistic scenarios to test and refine response plans, evaluate personnel readiness and identify areas for improvement in emergency management. They help ensure that all elements of the installation, including personnel, equipment and procedures, are fully capable of effectively responding to a variety of potential threats and emergencies.”