By Sgt. Mark Cloutier, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 31, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- An improvised 10-kiloton nuclear detonation has occurred somewhere close to Indianapolis, and the casualties are massive -- at least, that's the training scenario for which elements of 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, will provide mission command, health service support and force health protection during Vibrant Response 13.
In the dark, early morning hours of July 26, while most of the Pacific Northwest was fast asleep, approximately 200 members of the Army's 62nd Medical Brigade boarded a flight from Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- destination -- Camp Atterbury Ind. the Vibrant Response training site.
Vibrant Response is a training event which simulates the military's role in responding to a nuclear detonation within the nation's borders.
Four of 56th MMB's subordinate units, along with two Forward Surgical Teams from the 47th Combat Support Hospital, members of 555th Engineer Battalion and 24th Quartermaster Battalion will link up with an additional 5,000 U.S. servicemembers. They will come together for the largest annual chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) disaster training exercise in the country.
Vibrant Response is the result of unified efforts of Army North, United States Northern Command, the Department of the Army and other inter-governmental agencies, who worked together to create a strategy to strengthen the U.S. military's capability to respond to a CBRNE attack or incident.
The VR exercise, which measures America's readiness for such a catastrophic event, is led by Army North's subordinate command, Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS). This force includes three main sub-task force groups: TF-Operations; TF-Medical and TF-Aviation.
When or if the need arrises, JTF-CS will respond to help local civil authorities after their resources have been overwhelmed, but only when directed by the appropriate authority.
Each fiscal year, military units from around the U.S. are assigned to one of the three JTF designators, as needs dictate. These participating member elements make up the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF).
Major Edgar Arroyo, executive officer, 56th MMB, said his battalion goes on mission October 1, as a battalion headquarters for 14 subordinate medical units.
Though the training exercise officially begins upon arrival at Camp Atterbury, attending units are already wearing their game faces.
"We know we're going into an area of nuclear detonation," said Col. Theresa Schneider, 62nd Med Bde Commander. "The exact place where the detonation took place is not known to us until we get there … the extent and type of casualties are things that are unknown to us going in. We play the entire exercise as realistically as possible."
Once the units arrive at the joint operations area (JOA) they will link up with their interagency partners, primarily the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and get to work.
"First, we need to achieve situational awareness so we can get going with our medical planning," Schneider said. "Our primary purpose is to take care of Department of Defense responders."
As a live and constructive training exercise, Vibrant Response serves as the annual culminating training event to train/validate those units who are about to assume new fiscal year responsibilities as DCRF members. The training yields better understanding and as well as the confidence necessary to promote best execution of each unit's role as JTF-CS subordinate members.
Lessons learned from Vibrant Response exercises enables the Defense Department to more effectively detect, prevent, defeat and manage the consequences of a CBRNE attack or incident.
According to U.S. Army North, at the highest level, these exercises help to ensure that U.S. Northern Command and the Army meet requirements from presidential decision directives for an effective national capability to meet the CBRNE challenge.