By Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Torres, U.S. Army North PAOJuly 30, 2010
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. - In the simulated metropolitan area of Indianapolis, a parking garage collapsed after a nuclear explosion hit the city. The report from local officials was that there were 23 civilians trapped inside the rubble, and their conditions and status were unknown.
This was the scenario for the Soldiers from the 392nd Chemical Company, Arkansas Army National Guard based out of Little Rock, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue unit during Vibrant Response 10.2 field training exercise held at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center July 17. U.S. Army North's Joint Task Force - 51, headquartered in San Antonio, serves as the command and control element for the national emergency response FTX.
This joint mission required members of both the 392nd Chem. Co. and FEMA to work together to help those who were still trapped in the collapsed garage.
"We are here to ensure that the building has all required safety precautions met so we can begin the extraction of the wounded," said Mike Rosenthal, FEMA urban search and rescue team leader. "We must be able to provide a safe environment and training element for the units coming in that will work with us."
The extraction tested the abilities of the units to coordinate with one another to remove the rubble; find, extract, and decontaminate the wounded; and provide medical assistance. Civilian role players provide a critical element of realism that is not necessarily available during local training events.
"Adding civilians increases the realism of the total experience," said Maj. Bryan Faye, civilian role player manager, Army North. "This is the best way to reinforce training - by putting the civilians in place so the Soldier does not have to pretend."
"ARNORTH training assets are critical in the success of the overall training exercise," said Faye. "You can plan, train and talk about it all day, but once you come out here and actually participate in it, you can see the effects."
A joint effort helps the Soldiers interact with the state and local agencies - and especially with civilian community members.
"This is very realistic training with the role players, and we are learning there are ways to talk with them," said Spc. James Jackson, infantryman, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, South Carolina Army National Guard, as he was providing perimeter security. "Some of these people could be our neighbors, brothers, sisters, and we need to treat them with the utmost respect and let them know that we are here to help."
The job of the civilian role players is the most important element in the training, said Faye, because it provides confusion, frustration and on-the-spot thinking that will be needed in the real-world event.
"It's amazing how emotionally invested you become as a part of the civilian on the battlefield characters," said Wilma Morris, North Vernon resident and civilian role player. "If it helps one young Soldier, then it's all worth it."