By T. Anthony BellJuly 7, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (July 7, 2011) -- A gunman fires shots indiscriminately into a crowd of bystanders. Some fall instantly from direct hits. Others scatter in all directions to avoid being hit.
The scene, witnessed by many and seen on newscasts countless times, has become such a frequent occurrence in modern American society that it has evolved into a training event for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
That training made its way to the installation June 29-30 as personnel from the directorates of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, Fire and Emergency Services and other post activities participated in a force protection exercise devised to test how they would respond in such an event.
Scott Brown, director, DPTMS, said the event was beneficial to all who participated.
"Overall, the exercise was a valuable lessons-learned tool for us as we continue to improve our protection programs," he said. "We were able to implement some of the measures that were directed from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and merge them with the Department of the Army requirements to give us a better look at how we protect our military personnel, their families and the employees here."
More than 100 people were active participants in the exercise and about 100 others supported it in various ways said Claude McRae, DPTMS operations officer and the exercise director. They included the 49th Quartermaster Group, 23rd QM Brigade, Fort Lee Police Department, the Fort Lee office of the Criminal Investigation Command, Kenner Army Health Clinic and Fire and Emergency Services.
A team of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and first responders from the cities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell also participated.
The exercise, an annual anti-terrorism training event, had its official start at Williams Stadium where a formation of Soldiers was targeted by an active shooter.
The events that followed formed the basis of the exercise. They included procedures to subdue the suspects to mitigate threats such as weapons of mass destruction and toxic hazards and to respond to mass casualties.
"This exercise was designed to test our capability to track and manage a large-scale mass casualty event from the incident start to the incident closure," said Brown. "That included tracking the information about the perpetrators and victims in the incident. Secondarily, we needed to figure out how we would support the emerging emotional needs of our employees and family members after the event in a way to gain some measure of calm in moments of chaos."
Many of the major tasks carried out during the exercise were observed and formally evaluated by outside subject matter experts. Information from the evaluations and observations came to light during a hot wash held later the first day.
"We were able to take that instantaneous feedback and provide that to the players and agencies involved," said Brown. "From there we will develop our formal after-action review. That will allow us to build upon what we've learned."
Based on the information he received from observers, Brown said installation personnel performed their duties and responsibilities in such an event well.
"Having outside observers takes the bias out of it," he said. "The higher headquarters observations and our local community observers rated our performances very well. There are some areas we need to work on, but they did see a team approach and that the individual participants understood their roles and responsibilities."
The installation personnel and activities will get the opportunity to better perform their missions in another force protection exercise slated for later this summer, said McRae.