By Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Torres-CortesSeptember 8, 2010
Minneapolis - Throughout the United States, television news agencies broadcast images to the world on a daily basis that an attack has happened against people, places and even corporations. Usually the question isn't if an attack will happen but when.
These man-made attacks can be just as devastating as natural disasters. In fact, it is against such scenarios that the United States Army North, and its federal, state, city and local partners, train on a daily basis to overcome.
Such was the case Aug. 25 when members of Army North's Civil Support Training Activity, out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, deployed to Minneapolis during a pre-evaluation training exercise in support of the 55th Civil Support Team, which was called upon by the local Richfield County police and fire department to help decontaminate a crime scene.
The exercise was based on a scenario in which a couple of local residents entered the Best Buy Corporate Headquarters building in Richfield, Minn., and wounded numerous employees. To further complicate matters, the attackers used Anthrax, a serious illness caused by a spore-forming bacterium, to contaminate employees associated with the company.
The 55th Civil Support Team is a Minnesota Army National Guard unit based out of Fort Snelling, Minn. The Army North CSTA members served as observer controller/trainers during the event and provided assistance and feedback throughout.
"This scenario helps prepare both local and military responders to handle any type of situation," said Javier Rodriguez-Ramos, observer controller, CSTA, Army North. "They have to know how to enter into a building with the information they get from the survivors, and local police must ensure the safety of the populous and know when to call on the 55th CST for support."
The main emphasis during the exercise was the coordination and communication between local law enforcement and the CST team. The Army North CSTA's mission was to ensure that proper coordination and procedures were being followed and that any potential conflicts that arose during the exercise were addressed. Overseeing the communication from start to finish helped to ensure that both agencies were fully aware of their duties, responsibilities and capabilities.
"Our very first priority in this situation is getting the information out to our local responders, and we have to know what situation we are in, what we can do," said Lt. Jay Henthorne, Richfield Police Department. "We have a very good relationship with the 55th CST. We use training like this to ensure that we know all the people involved and develop our relationship now instead of when an event actually occurs."
The Richfield special weapons and tactics team participated in the exercise as well as a security team working in the Best Buy Corporate Headquarters and some Best Buy employees. The corporation authorized the training at their corporate headquarters building in an effort to assist its local responders and, at the same time, evaluate its own security and emergency management team.
"It's very important we know how to handle these types of situations," said Ed Johnson, emergency management security team member, Best Buy. "We understand the building security features and are able to help out the local law enforcement to determine any type of threats and provide critical information that they would need to help us."
With everyone involved, Best Buy Corporate employees were able to observe as the local law enforcement and the SWAT team helped those initially affected by the attack and how the law enforcement professionals figured out what happened during the start of the chaos. Once the law enforcement officials discovered that it was not only an attack with gun, but with a chemical agents as well, they called upon the 55th CST to support.
"The CSTA team does these types of mission throughout the United States," said Bill Havlic, director of Civil Support Readiness Group - West, CSTA, Army North. "There are training events like this every month. The CSTA team travels to numerous states to assess the training and to strengthen the confidence of the local CSTs and the local authorities."