By Scott Curtis, First Army Public AffairsAugust 31, 2011
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind., Aug. 31, 2011 -- As many Americans prepare to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the concern today is not remembering, but reacting. Federal, state and local disaster responders, with Department of Defense counterparts including First Army, are working together here to ensure America has a trained and ready force poised to respond to various natural disasters or terrorist attacks should the unthinkable ever happen again.
The scenario, dubbed Exercise Vibrant Response 12, tests the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, or CBRN, Response Enterprise from the military on how it works to save lives, relieve suffering and mitigate significant property damage.
Vibrant Response is a U.S. Army North led field training exercise for the specialized and general response forces dedicated to any CBRN incident. For the latest variation, Vibrant Response organizers introduced exercise elements of the Defense Department's CBRN Response Force, or DCRF, and the Command and Control CBRN Response Element -- Alpha into the exercise. The Enterprise is the latest generation of strategies to allow the U.S. to respond effectively to a potential CBRN attack on the homeland.
The Enterprise replaces the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF. The Enterprise brings more life-saving capability to where it is needed in half the time, and uses the Incident Command System, or ICS, which is the national, standardized, on-scene emergency management system.
"The ICS is an adaptable FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) system modified to support large or small incidents irrespective of jurisdictional boundaries. In other words, an area commander can cross city, county or state boundaries," said Lt. Col. Thomas Bright, chief, Exercise Branch, U.S. Army North.
An incredibly complex undertaking, Vibrant Response pulls forces from Army, Air Force and Navy bases, and cities from across America, to respond in support of American citizens. Missions include route clearance and contamination detection, search and extraction of collapsed buildings, medical treatment and evacuation of casualties. A mission with such enormous complexities and importance creates the need for inter-agency communication, team cohesion and quick reaction time.
All were on display as Federal forces descended to "Cincinnati" in support of first responders after a simulated 10-kiloton improvised-nuclear detonation. In what looks more like a movie studio than a military post, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, or MUTC, in Indiana, is littered with destroyed cars, old mobile homes and rubble blocking roads.
"In all, 240 displaced civilian role players, 350 medical mannequins, local police, Red Cross assets, two fire departments, eight ambulances, 120 cars/trucks and 15 tons of rubble/debris are all combined to replicate tough, realistic scenarios that introduce "fog" and friction into the training environment," Bright said.
DCRF elements arriving less than 48 hours after notification worked quickly to save lives and lessen suffering while additional federal responders moved to the disaster site. An event like a nuclear detonation will rapidly grow beyond the capacity of local first responders. Training in an exercise such as Vibrant Response helps the participants work through the challenges that would otherwise manifest at an inopportune time.
"This is an incredible venue in Muscatatuck," said Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, commanding general of First Army. "I have taken a real close look at not only our teammates at First Army, but how we can assist in the future with Northern Command to ensure we've got trained and ready forces for the future."
Vibrant Response is a confirmatory exercise for select Army Reserve Component units that are available to respond to a particular crisis anywhere in our nation effective Oct. 1. The extensive training is necessary to meet mission requirements, an integral part of our nation's ability to recover from any catastrophic incident. Its purpose is to assist local, state and federal agencies during recovery missions.
"First Army's responsibility and partnership in this is assisting Northern Command to provide trainer/mentors to ensure all of those capabilities we have here have the oversight and are doing things to the standard expected," Bednarek said.
The Department of Defense has a long history of helping civil authorities respond to disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the anthrax attacks in 2001. During the Vibrant Response exercises, First Army assists U.S. Army North with a portion of the observer/controllers, who confirm readiness of nearly 6,000 Enterprise personnel.
Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and local and state emergency responders, are also participating in the exercise.