FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq, May 16, 2007 - Troops and first responders at Forward Operating Base Q-West put their chemical training to the test May 10, during a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) exercise.

The exercise was designed to assess how prepared Soldiers are in the event of a VBIED. Role players and Hollywood-style special effects makeup added to the realism.

"We wanted to conduct this exercise to see how the first responders and everyone involved would react to it, and basically see where we stand in our base defensive posture that we need to maintain" said Capt. Wilbert Alvarado, 45th Sustainment Brigade chemical officer.

The exercise included participation from many different elements around the base.

"The whole training exercise was a secret," Capt. Alvarado said. "The only people who knew about it were the people in charge of it and the (simulated) casualties. The responders had no idea."

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor Regiment were in charge of the exercise, 45th Special Troops Battalion provided Soldiers to play the role of the casualties, the fire department played their role at the decontamination site, and 148th Quartermaster Soldiers were the responders.

Soldiers who were playing the role of casualties maneuvered a mock convoy with five vehicles through the North gate search lanes.

As the convoy entered the search lanes, a civilian vehicle integrated into their convoy and detonated a simulated-chlorine VBIED.

"Anytime you have people from different elements who don't normally work together, there are going to be a few hiccups," Capt. Alvarado said. "But with that in consideration, we had very few problems getting things rolling with this exercise and made very few errors. Overall the training was a huge success, and the level at which these soldiers performed was superb."

Capt. Alvarado said the training not only benefited the soldiers who had to respond
and react to the situation at hand, but also the soldiers on the base to make them more aware that things like this could happen.

"This was a really good exercise," said Spc. Jose Sorano, a mechanic with 148th
Quartermaster Company. "It helped with our situational awareness, and helps us be more prepared so if something like this were to happen, we would be ready for it. It was excellent."