By Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, Army North PAOAugust 19, 2011
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING COMPLEX, Ind., Aug. 22, 2011 -- During the Vibrant Response 12 exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, service members and local first responders participated in a subway rescue scenario Aug. 17 for the first time here.
With the memory of subway terror attacks in the Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, London, Moscow, and the foiled New York City subway attack, Army North exercise planners added the scenario to use an actual subway simulation training facility recently installed at the training complex.
"The subway is a venue we just introduced to the urban training complex," said Lt. Col. R. Dale Lyles, Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, or MUTC, commander. "It has two subway cars that were donated to us by the Chicago Transit Authority, and it replicates exactly what a subway system would look like."
Indiana and Michigan National Guardsmen, along with local Indiana firefighters, responded to emergency calls to the subway. With smoke billowing from the entrance of the underground station, members of the 51st Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team, a unit from the Michigan National Guard, out of the Augusta Armory at Fort Custer, Mich., surveyed the site for possible hazardous chemicals while Indiana Guardsmen cordoned off the area from injured civilians and media role-players.
After the Michigan WMD-CST members gave the "all clear," firefighters entered the smoky underground substation and evacuated the notional casualties.
"We were supposed to provide 360-degree security," said Sgt. Mitchell Meadows, with the 219th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Indiana National Guard. "But once we arrived on scene and saw the civilians at the entrance to the station, we took action to ensure their safety and that they didn't hamper rescue efforts."
Until they are federalized, state Guardsmen are authorized to provide security that active-duty military members are not authorized to provide due to the Posse Comitatus Act.
The experience encountering injured civilians demanding help for loved ones still trapped in the station, and the determined, somewhat aggressive media role-players trying to get footage, was somewhat overwhelming for the Guardsmen providing on-site security, but they said the experience proved to be beneficial.
"It was helpful," said Spc. Michael Hollifield, a military policeman with the 939th Military Police Detachment, 38th Infantry Division, Indiana National Guard. "It was a new experience. It was good hands-on training." Hollifield, a native of Terra Haute, Ind., was one of the Guardsmen cordoning the site.
"We can set the venue up so it looks like a real disaster in a subway station, something that Soldiers aren't necessarily trained to do," said Lyles. "The realness this presents gives all the complexities associated with testing the environment, gaining access, determining the best avenues of approach to get to the casualties, how to recover people in distress and things of that sort."
This scenario and others in Vibrant Response are part of the lifesaving and life-sustaining missions of federal chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear responders, said Duane Bowen, operations chief, Exercise Control Forward, Army North.
"It's important these units are prepared and trained in the event any natural or man-made disaster occurs," Bowen said. "Vibrant Response is one of the ways we ensure that we are ready."